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"W- H, NicoLii, D.D., Editor of London JExpositor, 
1 ST Series in 6 Vols. 

DODS, Rev. Marcus.— GENESIS. 

CHADTt^ICK, Kev. Dean ST. MARK. ^'^ 

BLAIBIE, Rev. W. G.— SAMUEL, 2 Vols. ol ^* 

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2d Series in 6 Vols. Si.«> 

SMITH, Rev. G. A ISAIAH, Vol.1. .t .= 



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BURTON, Rev. H.— ST. LUKE. • ^ := 

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WATSON, Rev. R. A.— JOB. ■?, 2 - 

itJtACLAREN, Rev. A.- PSALMS, Vol. L « « O 

STOKES, Rev. G. T ACTS, Vol. H. * I "O 

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**«L. Rev. G. A.-THE MINOR PROPHETS, 2 Vols. 







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Psalm XXXIX » . i 

M XL 14 

M XLI . 30 


,. XLIV 54 

M XLV. 63 

M XLVI 79 



XLIX. 100 

L . .115 

,. LI 125 

„ LII 142 

LIII. 148 

LIV 151 



Psalm LV 158 

M LVI 171 

LVII . . .180 

LVIII 189 

LIX .198 

M LX , . 209 

„ LXI 216 

„ LXII 223 

LXIII 232 

LXIV 241 

„ LXV . .246 

„ LXVI. . . . 255 

LXVII 264 


LXIX 293 

LXX. . 306 

LXXI 308 

„ LXXII. . . , . . . .315 

LXXIII . 333 

„ LXXIV .348 



Psalm LXXV , . .359 

„ LXXv^I 366 



LXXIX 396 

LXXX 404 

„ LXXXI . .414 

„ LXXXII 425 


„ LXXXIV . . .440 

, LXXXV. . 451 

, LXXXVI 461 

, LXXXVII. 470 


H LXXXIX. , 437 


1 I said, I will guard my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; 
I will put a muzzle on my mouth 

So long as the wicked is before me. 

2 I made myself dumb in still submission, 
I kept silence joylessly, 

And my s rrow was stirred. 

3 My heart was hot within me ; 
While I mused the fire blazed up; 
I spake with my tongue, 

1.4 Make me, Jehovah, to know my end, 

And the measure of my da'y^ what it is; 

Let me know how fleeting I am. 
, 5 Behold, as handbreadths hast Thou made my days, 

And my lifetime is as nothing before Thee ; 

Surely nothing but a breath is every man, stand he ever so firm 

6 Surely every man goes about like a shadow ; 
Surely for a breath do they make [such a stir] ; 

He heaps up [goods] and knows not who will gather them. • 

7 And now what wait I for, Lord ? 
My hope — to Thee it goes. 

8 From all my transgressions deliver me; 
Make me not a reproach of the fool. 

9 I make myself dumb, I open not my mouth. 
For Thou hast done [it]. 

10 Remove Thy stroke from me ; 

I am wasted by the assault of Thy hand. 

11 When with rebukes for iniquity Thou correctest a man, 
Like a moth Thou frayest away his gracetulness; 
Surely every man is [but] a breath. Selah. 



12 Hear my prayer, Jehovah, and give ear to my cry; 
At my weeping be not silent : 

For I am a guest with Thee, 

And a sojourner like all my fathers. 

13 Look away from me, that I may brighten up^ 
Before I go hence and be no more. 

PROTRACTED suffering, recognised as chastise- 
ment for sin, had wasted the psalmist's strength. 
It had been borne for a while in silence, but the rush 
of emotion had burst the floodgates. The psalm does 
not repeat the words which forced themselves from the 
hot heart, but preserves for us the calmer flow which 
followed. It falls into four parts, the first three of 
which contain three ve'ses each, and the fourth is 
expanded into four, divided into two couples. 

In the first part (vv. 1-3) the frustrated resolve 
of silence is recorded. Its motive was fear of sinning 
in speech " while the wicked is before me." That 
phrase is often explained as meaning that the sight of 
the prosperity of the godless in contrast with his own 
sorrows tempted the singer to break out into arraigning 
God's providence, and that he schooled himself to look 
at their insolent ease unmurmuringly. But the psalm 
has no other references to other men's flourishing 
condition ; and it is more in accordance with its tone 
to suppose that his own pains, and not their pleasures, 
prompted to the withheld words. The presence of 
** the wicked " imposed on his devout heart silence as 
a duty. We do not complain of a friend's conduct in 
the hearing of his enemies. God's servants have to 
watch their speech about Him when godless ears are 
listening, lest hasty words should give occasion for 
malicious glee or blasphemy. So, for God's honour, 
the psalmist put restraint on himself The word 
rendered *^ bridle " in ver. 2 by the A.V. and R.V. is 

xxxix.] THE PSALMS 

better taken as muzzle, for a muzzle closes the lips, and 
a bridle does not. The resolution thus energetically 
expressed was vigorously carried out : " I made myself 
dumb in still submission ; I kept silence." And what 
came of it ? *^ My sorrow was stirred." Grief sup- 
pressed is increased, as all the world knows. The 
closing words of ver. 2 b (lit. apart from good) are 
obscure, and very variously understood, some regarding 
them as an elliptical form of ^' from good and bad," and 
expressing completeness of silence ; others taking '' the 
good " to mean '' the law, oi the praise of God, or 
good-fortune, or such words as would serve to protect 
the singer from slanders." *^ But the preposition here 
employed, when it follows a verb meaning silence, 
does not introduce that concerning which silence is 
kept, but a negative result of silence " (Hupfeld). The 
meaning, then, is best given by some such paraphrase 
as '' joylessly" or "and I had no comfort" (R.V.). 
The hidden sorrow gnawed beneath the cloak like a 
fire in a hollow tree ; it burned fiercely unseen, and 
ate its way at last into sight. Locked lips make hearts 
hotter. Repression of utterance only feeds the fire, and 
sooner or later the '* muzzle " is torn off, and pent-up 
feeling breaks into speech, often the wilder for the 
violence done to nature by the attempt to deny it its 
way. The psalmist's motive was right, and in a 
measure his silence was so ; but his resolve did not 
at first go deep enough. It is the heart, not the mouth, 
that has to be silenced. To build a dam across a 
torrent without diminishing the sources that supply 
its waters only increases weight and pressure, and 
ensures a muddy flood when it bursts. 

Does the psalm proceed to recount what its author 
said when he broke silence ? It may appear so at 


first sight. On the other hand, the calm prayer which 
follows, beginning with ver. 4, is not of the character 
of the wild and whirling words which were suppressed 
for fear of sinning, nor does the fierce fire of which 
the psalm has been speaking flame in it. It seems, 
therefore, more probable that those first utterances, in 
which the overcharged heart relieved itself, and which 
were tinged with complaint and impatience, are not 
[ reserved, and did not deserve to be, and that the 
pathetic, meditative petitions of the rest of the psalm 
succeeded them, as after the first rush of the restrained 
torrent comes a stiller flow. Such a prayer might well 
have been offered "while the wicked is before me," 
and might have been laid to heart by them. Its 
thoughts are as a cool hand laid on the singer's hot 
heart. They damp the fire burning in him. There is 
no surer remedy for inordinate sensibility to outward 
sorrows than fixed convictions of life's brevity and 
illusoriness ; and these are the two thoughts which the 
prayer casts into sweet, sad music. 
yi\t deals with commonplaces of thought, which poets 
and moralists have been singing and preaching since 
the world began, in different tones and with discordant 
applications, sometimes with fierce revolt against the 
inevitable, sometimes with paralysing consciousness of 
it, sometimes using these truths as arguments for base 
pleasures and aims, sometimes toying with them as 
occasions for cheap sentiment and artificial pathos, 
sometimes urging them as motives for strenuous toil. 
But of all the voices which have ever sung or prophesied 
of life's short span and shadowy activities, none is 
nobler, saner, healthier, and calmer than this psalmist's."^ 
The stately words in which he proclaimed the transiency 
of all earthly things are not transient. They are 

xxxix.] THE PSALMS 

"nothing but a breath," but they have outlasted much 
that seemed solid, and their music will sound as long 
as man is on his march through time. Our "days" 
have a " measure " ; they are a limited period, and the 
Measurer is God. '^ But this fleeting creature man has 
an obstinate fancy of his permanence, which is not all 
bad indeed — since without it there would be little 
continuity of purpose or concentration of effort — but 
may easily run to extremes and hide the fact that there 
is an end. Therefore the prayer for Divine illumina- 
tion is needed, that we may not be ignorant of that 
which we know well enough, if we would bethink our- 
selves. The solemn convictions of ver. 5 are won by 
the petitions of ver. 4. He who asks God to make 
him know his end has already gone far towards know- 
ing it. If he seeks to estimate the " measure " of his 
days, he will soon come to the clear conviction that it 
is only the narrow space that may be covered by one 
or two breadths of a hand. So do noisy years shrink 
when heaven's chronology is applied to them. A life- 
time looks long, but set against God's eternal years, 
it shrivels to an all but imperceptible point, having 
position, but not magnitude. 

The thought of brevity naturally draws after it that 
of illusoriness. Just because life is so frail does it 
assume the appearance of being futile. Both ideas 
are blended in the metaphors of " a breath " and " a 
shadow." There is a solemn earnestness in the three- 
fold " surely," confirming each clause of the seer's 
insight into earth's hollowness. How emphatically he 
puts it in the almost pleonastic language, " Surely 
nothing but a breath is every man, stand he ever so 
firm." The truth proclaimed is undeniably certain. 
It covers the whole ground of earthly life, and it 


includes the most prosperous and firmly established. 
"A breath" is the very emblem of transiency and of 
unsubstantiality. Every solid body can be melted and 
made gaseous vapour, if heat enough is applied. 
They who habitually bring human life ^' before Thee " 
dissolve into vapour the solid-seeming illusions which 
cheat others, and save their own lives from being but 
a breath by clearly recognising that they are. 

The Selah at the end of ver. 4 does not here seem to 
mark a logical pause in thought nor to coincide with the 
strophe division, but emphasises by some long-drawn, 
sad notes the teaching of the words. The thought 
runs on unbroken, and ver. 6 is closely linked to ver. 5 
by the repeated '^ surely " and '' breath " as well as in 
subject. The figure changes from breath to ^^ shadow," 
literally ^* image," meaning not a sculptured likeness, 
but an eidolon, or unsubstantial apparition. 

"The glories of our birth and state 
Are shadows, not substantial things"; 

and all the movements of men coming and going in 
the world are but like a dance of shadows. As they 
are a breath, so are their aims. All their hubbub and 
activity is but Hke the bustle of ants on their hill — 
immense energy and toil, and nothing coming of it all. 
If any doubt remained as to the correctness of this 
judgment of the aimlessness of man's toil, one fact 
would confirm the psalmist's sentence, viz., that the 
most successful man labours to amass, and has to leave 
his piles for another whom he does not know, to gather 
into his storehouses and to scatter by his prodigahty. 
There may be an allusion in the words to harvesting 
work. The sheaves are piled up, but in whose barn 
are they to be housed? Surely, if the grower and 

xxxix.] THE PSALMS 

reaper is not the ultimate owner, his toil has been for 
a breath. 

All this is no fantastic pessimism. Still less is it an 
account of what life must be. If any man's is nothing 
but toiling for a breath, and if he himself is nothing but 
a breath, it is his own fault. They who are joined to 
God have " in their embers something that doth live " ; 
and if they labour for Him, they do not labour for vanity, 
nor do they leave their possessions when they die. 
The psalmist has no reference to a future life, but the 
immediately following strophe shows that, though he 
knew that his days were few, he knew, too, that, if his 
hope were set on God he was freed from the curse of 
illusoriness and grasped no shadow, but the Living 
Substance, who would make his life blessedly real and 
pour into it substantial good. 

The effect of such convictions of life's brevity and 
emptiness should be to throw the heart back on God. 
In the third part of the psalm (vv. 7-9) a higher strain 
sounds. The singer turns from his dreary thoughts, 
which might so easily become bitter ones, to lay hold 
on God. What should earth's vanity teach but God's 
sufficiency ? It does not need the light of a future life 
to be flashed upon this mean, swiftly vanishing present 
in order to see it '' apparelled in celestial hght." With- 
out that transforming conception, it is still possible to 
make it great and real by bringing it into conscious 
connection with God ; and if hope and effort are set on 
Him amid all the smallnesses and perishablenesses of 
the outer world, hope will not chase a shadow, nor 
effort toil for very vanity. The psalmist sought to calm 
his hot heart by the contemplation of his end, but that 
is a poor remedy for perturbation and grief unless it 
leads to actual contact with the one enduring Substance. 


It did so with him, and therefore *' grief grew calm," 
just because *' hope was " not " dead." To preach the 
vanity of all earthly things to heavy hearts is but pour- 
ing vinegar on nitre, unless it is accompanied wath the 
great antidote to all sad and depreciating views of life : 
the thought that in it men may reach their hands 
beyond the time-film that enmeshes them and grasp the 
unchanging God. This psalm has no reference to life 
beyond the grave ; but it finds in present communion by 
waiting and hope, emancipation from the curse of fleet- 
ing triviality which haunts every life separated from 
Him, like that which the Christian hope of immortahty 
gives. God is the significant figure which gives value 
to the row of ciphers of which every life is without 
Him made up. Blessed are they who are driven by 
earth's vanity and drawn by God's fulness of love and 
power to fling themselves into His arms and nestle 
there 1 The strong recoil of the devout soul from a 
world which it has profoundly felt to be shadowy, and 
its great venture of faith, which is not a venture after 
all, were never more nobly or simply expressed than in 
that quiet ^* And now " — things being so — " what wait 
I for ? My hope " — in contrast with the false directions 
which other men's takes — "to Thee it turns." 

The burden is still on the psalmist's shoulders. His 
sufferings are not ended, though his trust has taken the 
poison out of them. Therefore his renewed grasp of God 
leads at once to prayer for deliverance from his " trans- 
gressions," in which cry may be included both sins and 
their chastisement. " The fool " is the name of a class, 
not of an individual, and, as always in Scripture, denotes 
moral and religious obliquity, not intellectual feebleness. 
The expression is substantially equivalent to " the 
wicked " of ver. I, and a similar motive to that which 

xxxix.] THE PSALMS 

there induced the psalmist to be silent is here urged as 
a plea with God for the sufferer's deliverance. Taunts 
launched at a good man suffering will glance off him 
and appear to reach his God. 

Ver. 9 pleads as a reason for God's deliverance the 
psalmist's silence under what he recognised as God's 
chastisement. The question arises whether this is the 
same silence as is referred to in w. I, 2, and many 
authorities take that view. But that silence was broken 
by a rush of words from a hot heart, and, if the account 
of the connection in the psalm given above is correct, 
by a subsequent more placid meditation and prayer. 
It would be irrelevant to recur to it here, especially as 
a plea with God. But there are two kinds of silence 
under His chastisements : one which may have for its 
motive regard to His honour, but is none the less 
tinged with rebellious thoughts, and brings no good to 
the sufferer, and another which is silence of heart and 
will, not of lips only, and soothes sorrow which the 
other only aggravated, and puts out the fire which the 
other fanned. Submission to God's hand discerned 
behind all visible causes is the blessed silence. "To 
lie still, let Him strike home, and bless the rod," is 
best. And when that is attained, the uses of chastise- 
ment are accomplished ; and we may venture to ask 
God to burn the rod. The desire to be freed from its 
blow is not inconsistent with such submission. This 
prayer does not break the silence, though it may seem 
to do so, for this is the privilege of hearts that love 
God : that they can breathe desires to Him without 
His holding them unsubmissive to His supreme will. 

The last part (vv. 10-13) is somewhat abnormally 
long, and falls into two parts separated by "Selah," 
which musical note does not here coincide with the 


greater divisions. The two pairs of verses are both 
petitions for removal of sickness, either real or figura- 
tive. Their pleading persistence presents substantially 
the same prayer and supports it by the same considera- 
tions of man's transiency. The Pattern of perfect 
resignation thrice ** prayed, saying the same words " ; 
and His suffering followers may do the same, and yet 
neither sin by impatience, nor weary the Judge by 
their continual coming The psalmist sees in his pains 
God's '' stroke," and pleads the effects already produced 
on him as a reason for cessation. He is already 
"wasted by the assault of God's hand." One more 
buffet, and he feels that he must die. It is bold for a 
sufferer to say to God, *^ Hold I enough 1 " but all 
depends on the tone in which it is said. It may be 
presumption, or it may be a child's free speech, not in 
the least trenching on a Father's authority. The 
sufferer underrates his capacity of endurance, and often 
thinks, " I can bear no straw more " ; but yet he has to 
bear it. Yet the psalmist's cry rests upon a deep 
truth : that God cannot mean to crush ; therefore he 
goes on to a deeper insight into the meaning of that 
"stroke." It is not the attack of an enemy, but the 
" correction " of a friend. 

If men regarded sorrows and sicknesses as rebukes 
for iniquity, they would better understand why sinful 
life, separated from God, is so fleeting. The character- 
istic ground tone of the Old l^stament echoes here, 
according to which " the wages of sin is death." The 
commonplace of man's frailty receives a still more 
tragic colouring when thus regarded as a consequence 
of his sin. The psalmist has learned it in relation to 
his own sufferings, and, because he sees it so clearly, 
he pleads that these may cease. He looks on his own 

xxxix.] THK PSALMS II 

wasted form; and God's hand seems to him to have 
taken away all that made it or life desirable and fair, as 
a moth would gnaw a garment. What a daring figure 
to compare the mightiest with the feeblest, the Eternal 
with the very type of evanescence I 

The second subdivision of this part (vv. 12, 13) 
reiterates the former with some difference of tone. 
There is a beautiful climax of earnestness in the 
psalmist's appeal to God. His prayer swells into 
crying, and that again melts into tears, which go 
straight to the great Father's heart. Weeping eyes 
are never turned to heaven in vain ; the gates of 
mercy open wide when the hot drops touch them. 
But his fervour of desire is not this suppliant's chief 
argument with God. His meditation has won for him 
deeper insight into that transiency which at fiist he 
had only laid like ice on his heart, to cool its feverish 
heat. He sees now more clearly, by reason of his 
effort to turn away his hope from earth and fix it on 
God, that his brief life has an aspect in which its brevity 
is not only calming, but exalting, and gives him a claim 
on God, whose guest he is while here, and with whom 
he has guest-rights, whether his stay is longer or 
shorter. '* The land is mine, for ye are strangers and 
sojourners with me " (Lev. xxv. 23). That which was 
true in a special way of Israel's tenure of the soil is 
true for the individual, and true for ever. All men are 
God's guests ; and if we betake ourselves behind the 
curtains of His tent, we have rights of shelter and 
sustenance. All the bitterness of the thought of the 
brevity of life is sucked out of it by such a confidence. 
If a man dwells with God, his Host will care for the 
needs, and not be indifferent to the tears, of His guest. 
The long generations which have come and gone like 


shadows are not a melancholy procession out of nothing 
through vanity into nothing again, nor " disquieted in 
vain/' if they are conceived as each in turn lodging for 
a little while in that same ancestral home which the 
present generation inhabits. It has seen many sons 
succeeding their fathers as its tenants, but its stately 
strength grows not old, and its gates are open to-day 
as they have been in all generations. 

The closing prayer in ver. 13 has a strange sound. 
" Look away from me " is surely a singular petition, 
and the effect of God's averting His face is not less 
singular. The psalmist thinks that it will be his 
regaining cheerfulness and brightness, for he uses a 
word which means to clear up or to brighten, as the 
sky becomes blue again after storm. The light of 
God's face makes men's faces bright. "They cried 
unto God, and were lightened," not because He looked 
away from them, but because He regarded them. But 
the intended paradox gives the more emphatic expression 
to the thought that the psalmist's pains came from God's 
angry look, and it is that which he asks may be turned 
from him. That mere negative withdrawal, however, 
would have no cheering power, and is not conceivable as 
unaccompanied by the turning to the suppliant of God's 
loving regard. The devout psalmist had no notion of 
a neutral God, nor could he ever be contented with 
simple cessation of the tokens of Divine displeasure. 
The ever-outflowing Divine activity must reach every 
man. It may come in one or other of the two forms 
of favour or of displeasure, but come it will ; and each 
man can determine which side of that pillar of fire and 
cloud is turned to him. On one side is the red glare of 
anger, on the other the white lustre of love. If the 
one is turned from, the other is turned to us, 

xxxix.] THE PSALMS 13 

Not less remarkable is the prospect of going away 
into non-being which the last words of the psalm 
present as a piteous reason for a little gleam of bright- 
ness being vouchsafed in this span-long life. There 
is no vision here of life beyond the grave ; but, though 
there is not, the singer '^ throws himself into the arms 
of God." He does not seek to solve the problem of 
life by bringing the future in to redress the balance 
of good and evil. To him the solution lies in present 
communion with a present God, in whose house he is 
a guest now, and whose face will make his life bright, 
however short it may be. 


1 Waiting, I waited for Jehovah, 

And He bent to me and heard my [loud] cry, 

2 And lifted me from the pit of destruction, 
From the mire of the bog, 

And set my feet on a rock — 
Established my steps, 

3 And put in my mouth a new song, 
Praise unto our God. 

Many shall see and fear, 
And trust in Jehovah. 

4 Blessed is the man who has made Jehovah his trust, 

And has not turned [away] to the proud and deserters to a lie. 

5 In multitudes hast Thou wrought, Jehovah, my God ; 
Thy wonders and Thy purposes towards us — 
There is none to be set beside Thee — 

Should I declare them and speak them. 
They surpass numbering. 

6 Sacrifice and meal-offering Thou didst not delight in— 
Ears hast Thou pierced for me — 

Burnt-offering and sin-offering Thou didst not demand. 

7 Then I said. Behold, I am come — 

In the roll of the book it is prescribed to me— 

8 To do Thy pleasure, my God, I delight, 
And Thy law is within my inmost parts. 

9 I proclaimed glad tidings of Thy righteousness in the great con- 

gregation ; 
Behold, my lips I did not restrain, 
Jehovah, Thou knowest. 
lO Thy righteousness did I not hide within my heart ; 
Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation did I speak ; 
I concealed not Thy loving-kindness and Thy truth from the great 



xl.] THE PSALMS 1$ 

11 Thou, Jehovah, wilt not restrain Thy compassions from me ; 
Thy loving-kindness and Thy troth will continually preserve me. 

12 For evils beyond numbering have compassed me ; 

My iniquities have overtaken me, and I am not able to see : 
They surpass the hairs of my head, 
And my heart has forsaken me. 

13 Be pleased, Jehovah, to deliver me; 
Jehovah, hasten to my help. 

14 Shamed and put to the blush together be the seekers after my 

soul to carry it away ! 
Turned back and dishonoured be they who delight in my calamity ! 

15 Paralysed by reason of their shame 
Be they who say to me, Oho ! Oho ! 

16 Joyful and glad in Thee be all who seek Thee ! 

Jehovah be magnified, may they ever say who love Thy salvation I 
i7lBut as for me, I am afflicted and needy; 
The Lord purposes [good] for me : 
My Help and my Deliverer art Thou; 
My God, delay not.} 

THE closing verses of this psalm reappear with 
slight changes as an independent whole in 
Psalm Ixx. The question arises whether that is a 
fragment or this a conglomerate. Modern opinion 
inclines to the latter alternative, and points in support 
to the obvious change of tone in the second part. But 
that change does not coincide with the supposed line of 
junction, since Psalm Ixx. begins with our ver. 13, and 
the change begins with ver. 12. Cheyne and others 
are therefore obliged to suppose that ver. 12 is the 
work of a third poet or compiler, who effected a junction 
thereby. The cumbrousness of the hypothesis of fusion 
is plain, and its necessity is not apparent, for it is 
resorted to in order to explain how a psalm which keeps 
so lofty a level of confidence at first should drop to 
such keen consciousness of innumerable evils and 
such faint-heartedness. But surely such resurrection 
of apparently dead fears is not uncommon in devoutj 


sensitive souls. They live beneath April skies, not 
unbroken blue. However many the wonderful works 
which God has done and however full of thankfulness 
the singer's heart, his deliverance is not complete. The 
contrast in the two parts of the psalm is true to facts 
and to the varying aspects of feeling and of faith. 
Though the latter half gives greater prominence to 
encompassing evils, they appear but for a moment ; and 
the prayer for deliverance which they force from the 
psalmist is as triumphant in faith as were the thanks- 
givings of the former part. In both the ground tone 
is that of victorious grasp of God's help, which in the 
one is regarded in its mighty past acts, and in the 
other is implored and trusted in for present and future 
needs. The change of tone is not such as to demand 
the hypothesis of fusion. The unity is further sup- 
ported by verbal links between the parts : e.g.^ the 
innumerable evils of ver. 12 pathetically correspond to 
the innumerable mercies of ver. 5, and the same word 
for ^^ surpass " occurs in both verses ; '' be pleased " in 
ver. 13 echoes ''Thy pleasure" (will, A.V.) in ver. 8; 
" cares " or //jm^s (A.V.) in ver. 17 is the verb from, 
which the noun rendered purposes (thoughts, A.V.) in 
ver, 5 is derived. 

The attribution of the psalm to David rests solely on 
the superscription. The contents have no discernible 
points of connection with known circumstances in his 
or any other life. Jeremiah has been thought of as the 
author, on the strength of giving a prosaic hteral meaning 
to the obviously poetical phrase ''the pit of destruction " 
(ver. 2). If it is to be taken literally, what is to be 
made of the " rock " in the next clause ? Baethgen 
and others see the return from Babylon in the glowing 
metaphors of ver. 2, and, in accordance with their con- 


captions of the evolution of spiritual religion, take the 
subordination of sacrifice to obedience as a clear token 
of late date. We may, however, recall i Sam. xv. 22, 
and venture to doubt whether the alleged process of 
spiritualising has been so clearly established, and its 
stages dated, as to afford a criterion of the age of a 

In the first part, the current of thought starts from 
thankfulness for individual deliverances (vv. 1-3) ; 
widens into contemplation of the blessedness of trust and 
the riches of Divine mercies (vv. 4, 5) ; moved by these 
and taught what is acceptable to God, it rises to self- 
consecration as a living sacrifice (vv. 6-^) ; and, finally, 
pleads for experience of God's grace in all its forms on 
the ground of past faithful stewardship in celebrating 
these (vv. 9-1 1). The second part is one long-drawn 
cry for help, which admits of no such analysis, though 
its notes are various. 

The first outpouring of the song is one long sentence, 
of which the clauses follow one another like sunlit 
ripples, and tell the whole process of the psalmist's 
deliverance. It began with patient waiting; it ended 
with a new song. The voice first raised in a cry, shrill 
and yet submissive enough to be heard above, is at last 
tuned into new forms of uttering the old praise. The two 
clauses of ver. i (" I " and " He ") set over against each 
other, as separated by the distance between heaven and 
earth, the psalmist and his God. He does not begin 
with his troubles, but with his faith. *' Waiting, he 
waited " for Jehovah ; and wherever there is that attitude 
of tense and continuous but submissive expectance, 
God's attitude will be that of bending to meet it. The 
meek, upturned eye has power to draw His towards 
itself. That is an axiom of the devout life confirmed 

VOL. II. 2 


by all experience, even if the tokens of deliverance delay 
their coming. Such expectance, however patient, is not 
inconsistent with loud crying, but rather finds voice in 
it. Silent patience and impatient prayer, in too great a 
hurry to let God take His own time, are equally imper- 
fect. But the cry, "Haste to my help" (ver. 13), and 
the final petition, " My God, delay not," are consistent 
with true waiting. 

The suppliant and God have come closer together 
in ver. 2, which should not be regarded as beginning 
a new sentence. As in Psalm xviii., prayer brings God 
down to help. His hand reaches to the man prisoned 
in a pit or struggling in a swamp ; he is dragged out, set 
on a rock, and feels firm ground beneath his feet. Ob- 
viously the whole representation is purely figurative, and 
it is hopelessly flat and prosaic to refer it to Jeremiah's 
experience. The " many waters " of Psalm xviii. are 
a parallel metaphor. The dangers that threatened 
the psalmist are described as "a pit of destruction," 
as if they were a dungeon into which whosoever was 
thrown would come out no more, or in which, like 
a wild beast, he has been trapped. They are also 
likened to a bog or quagmire, in which struggles only 
sink a man deeper. But the edge of the bog touches 
rock, and there is firm footing and unhindered walking 
there, if only some great lifting power can drag the 
sinking man out. God's hand can, and does, because 
the lips, almost choked with mire, could yet cry. The 
psalmist's extremity of danger was probably much 
more desperate than is usual in such conditions as 
ours, so that his cries seem too piercing for us to 
make our own ; but the terrors and conflicts of humanity 
are nearly constant quantities, though the occasions 
calling them forth are widely different. If we look 

xl] THE PSALMS 19 

deeper into life than its surface, we shall learn that 
it is not violent ** spiritualising " to make these utter- 
ances the expression of redeeming grace, since in 
truth there is but one or other of these two possibilities 
open for us. Either we flounder in a bottomless bog, 
or we have our feet on the Rock. 

God's deliverance gives occasion for fresh praise. 
The psalmist has to add his voice to the great chorus, 
and this sense of being but one of a multitude, who 
have been blessed alike and therefore should bless 
alike, occasions the significant interchange in ver. 3 
of " my " and " our," which needs no theory of the 
speaker being the nation to explain it. It is ever a 
joy to the heart swelling with the sense of God's 
mercies to be aware of the many who share the 
mercies and gratitude. The cry for deliverance is 
a solo ; the song of praise is choral. The psalmist did 
not need to be bidden to praise ; a new song welled 
from his hps as by inspiration. Silence was more 
impossible to his glad heart than even to his sorrow. 
To shriek for help from the bottom of the pit and to 
be dumb when lifted to the surface is a churl's part. 

Though the song was new in this singer's mouth, 
as befitted a recipient of deliverances fresh from heaven, 
the theme was old ; but each new voice individualises 
the commonplaces of religious experience, and repeats 
them as fresh. And the result of one man's convinced 
and jubilant voice, giving novelty to old truths because 
he has verified them in new experiences, will be that 
*' many shall see," as though they behold the deliver- 
ance of which they hear, '^ and shall fear " Jehovah 
and trust themselves to Him. It was not the psalmist's 
deliverance, but his song, that was to be the agent in 
this extension of the fear of Jehovah. All great poets 


have felt that their words would win audience and live. 
Thus, even apart from consciousness of inspiration, 
this lofty anticipation of the effect of his words is 
intelligible, without supposing that their meaning is 
that the signal deliverance of the nation from captivity 
would spread among heathens and draw them to 
Israel's faith. 

The transition from purely personal experience to 
more general thoughts is completed in vv. 4, 5. Just 
as the psalmist began with telling of his own patient 
expectance and thence passed on to speak of God's 
help, so in these two verses he sets forth the same 
sequence in terms studiously cast into the most com- 
prehensive form. Happy indeed are they who can 
translate their own experience into these two truths 
for all men : that trust is blessedness and that God's 
mercies are one long sequence, made up of numberless 
constituent parts. To have these for one's inmost con- 
victions and to ring them out so clearly and melodiously 
that many shall be drawn to listen, and then to verify 
them by their own " seeing," is one reward of patient 
waiting for Jehovah. That trust must be maintained 
by resolute resistance to temptations to its opposite. 
Hence the negative aspect of trust is made prominent 
in ver. 4 by in which the verb should be rendered 
" turns not " instead of " respecteth not," as in the A.V. 
and R.V. The same motion, looked at from opposite 
sides, may be described in turning to and turning 
from. Forsaking other confidences is part of the 
process of making God one's trust. But it is significant 
that the antithesis is not completely carried out, for 
those to whom the trustful heart does not turn are not 
here, as might have been expected, rival objects of 
trust, but those who put their own trust in false 

xl.] THE PSALMS 21 

refuges. " The proud " are the class of arrogantly 
self-reliant people who feel no need of anything but 
their own strength to lean on. " Deserters to a lie " 
are those who fall away from Jehovah to put their trust 
in any creature, since all refuges but Himself will fail. 
Idols may be included in this thought of a lie, but it is 
unduly limited if confined to them. Much rather it 
takes in all false grounds of security. The antithesis 
fails in accuracy, for the sake of putting emphasis on 
the prevalence of such mistaken trust, which makes it 
so much the harder to keep aloof from the multitudes 
and stand alone in reliance on Jehovah. 

Ver. 5 corresponds with ver. 4, in that it sets forth 
in similar generality the great deeds with which God 
is wont to answer man's trust. But the personality 
of the poet breaks very beautifully through the im- 
personal utterances at two points : once when he names 
Jehovah as " my God," thus claiming his separate 
share in the general mercies and his special bond of 
connection with the Lover of all ; and once when 
he speaks of his own praises, thus recognising the 
obligation of individual gratitude for general blessings. 
Each particle of finely comminuted moisture in the 
rainbow has to flash back the broad sunbeam at its 
own angle. God's " wonders and designs " are " real- 
ised Divine thoughts and Divine thoughts which are 
gradually being realised" (Delitzsch). These are 
wrought and being wrought in multitudes innumerable ; 
and, as the psalmist sees the bright, unbroken beams 
pouring forth from their inexhaustible source, he breaks 
into an exclamation of adoring wonder at the incom- 
parable greatness of the ever-giving God. ''There 
is none to set beside Thee" is far loftier and more 
accordant with the tone of the verse than the compara- 


tively flat and incongruous remark that God's mercies 
cannot be told to Him (A.V. and R.V.). A precisely 
similar exclamation occurs in Psalm Ixxi. 19, in which 
God's incomparable greatness is deduced from the great 
things which He has done. Happy the singer who 
has an inexhaustible theme I He is not silenced by 
the consciousness of the inadequacy of his songs, but 
rather inspired to the never-ending, ever-beginning, 
joyful task of uttering some new fragment of that 
transcendent perfection. Innumerable wonders wrought 
should be met by ever-new songs. If they cannot be 
counted, the more reason for open-eyed observance 
of them as they come, and for a stream of praise as 
unbroken as is their bright continuance. 

If God's mercies thus baffle enumeration and beggar 
praise, the question naturally rises, " What shall I 
render to the Lord for all His benefits? " Therefore the 
next turn of thought shows the psalmist as reaching 
the lofty spiritual conception that heartfelt delight in 
God's will is the true response to God's wonders of love. 
He soars far above external rites as well as servile obe- 
dience to unloved authority, and proclaims the eternal 
and ultimate truth that what God delights in is man's 
delight in His will. The great words which rang the 
knell of Saul's kingship may well have sounded in 
his successor's spirit. Whether they are the source of 
the language of our psalm or not, they are remarkably 
similar. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken 
than the fat of rams" (l Sam. xv. 23), teaches precisely 
the same lesson as w. 6-8 of this psalm. The strong 
negation in ver. 6 does not deny the Divine institution 
of the sacrificial law, but affirms that something much 
deeper than external sacrifices is the real object of God's 
desire. The negation is made emphatic by enumerating 

xl.] THE PSALMS 23 

the chief kinds of sacrifice. Whether they are bloody 
or bloodless, whether meant to express consecration 
or to effect reconciliation, they are none of them the 
true sacrifices of God. In ver. 6 the psalmist is entirely 
occupied with God's declarations of His requirements ; 
and he presents these in a remarkable fashion, inter- 
calating the clause, '* Ears hast Thou pierced for me," 
between the two parallel clauses in regard to sacrifice. 
Why should the connection be thus broken ? The 
fact that God has endowed the psalmist with capacity 
to apprehend the Divine speech reveals God's desire 
concerning him. Just because he has ears to hear, it 
is clear that God wishes him to hear, and therefore 
that outward acts of worship cannot be the acknow- 
ledgment of mercies in which God delights. The 
central clause of the verse is embedded in the others, 
because it deals with a Divine act which, pondered, 
will be seen to establish their teaching. The whole 
puts in simple, concrete form a wide principle, namely, 
that the possession of capacity tor receiving communi- 
cations of God's will imposes the duty of loving recep- 
tion and obedience, and points to inward joyful accept- 
ance of that will as the purest kind of worship. 

Vv. 7 and 8 are occupied with the response to God's 
requirements thus manifested by His gift of capacity to 
hear His voice. " Then said I." As soon as he had 
learned the meaning of his ears he found the right use 
of his tongue. The thankful heart was moved to swift 
acceptance of the known will of God. The clearest 
recognition of His requirements may coexist with 
resistance to them, and needs the impulse of loving 
contemplation of God's unnumbered wonders to vivify 
it into glad service. '* Behold, I am come," is the 
language of a servant entering his master's presence in 


obedience to his call. In ver. 7 the second clause 
interrupts just as in ver. 6. There the interruption 
spoke of the organ of receiving Divine messages as to 
duty ; here it speaks of the messages themselves : " In 
the roll of the book is my duty prescribed for me." 
The promise implied in giving ears is fulfilled by giving 
a permanent written law. This man, having ears to 
hear, has heard, and has not only heard, but welcomed 
into the inmost recesses of his heart and will, the 
declared will of God. The word rendered "delight" 
in ver. 8 is the same as is rendered " desire " in ver. 6 
(A.V.) ; and that rendered by the A.V. and R.V. in 
ver. 8 " will " is properly " good pleasure." Thus God's 
delight and man's coincide. Thankful love assimilates 
the creature's will with the Divine, and so changes 
tastes and impulses that desire and duty are fused into 
one. The prescriptions of the book become the delight 
of the heart. An inward voice directs. " Love, and 
do what Thou wilt " ; for a will determined by love can- 
not but choose to please its Beloved. Liberty consists 
in freely willing and victoriously doing what we ought, 
and such liberty belongs to hearts whose supreme 
delight is to please the God whose numberless wonders 
have won their love and made their thanksgivings poor. 
The law written in the heart was the ideal even when 
a law was written on tables of stone. It was the 
prophetic promise for the Messianic age. It is fulfilled 
in the Christian life in the measure of its genuineness. 
Unless the heart delights in the la.wv, acts of obedience 
count for very little. 

The quotation . of w. 7, 8, in Heb. x. 5-7, is mainly 
from the LXX., which has the remarkable rendering of 
ver. 6bf "A body hast Thou prepared for me." Probably 
this is meant as paraphrase rather than as translation ; 

xl.] THE PSALMS 25 

and it does represent substantially the idea of the 
original, since the body is the instrument for fulfilling, 
just as the ear is the organ for apprehending, the uttered 
will of God. The value of the psalm for the writer of 
Hebrews does not depend on that clause, but on the 
whole representation which it gives of the ideal of the 
perfectly righteous servant's true worship, as involving 
the setting aside of sacrifice and the decisive pre- 
eminence of willing obedience. That ideal is fulfilled 
in Jesus, and really pointed onwards to Him. This 
use of the quotation does not imply the directly 
Messianic character of the psalm. 

" Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth 
speaketh," and thus the passage is easy from inward 
delight in God's will to public declaration of His cha- 
racter. Every true lover of God is a witness of His 
sweetness to the world. Since the psalmist had His 
law hidden in the depths of his being, he could not 
"hide" His righteousness within his heart, but must 
magnify it with his tongue. That is a feeble and 
doubtful love which knows no necessity of utterance. 
To " love and be silent " is sometimes imperative, but 
always burdensome ; and a heart happy in its love 
cannot choose but ripple out in music of speech. The 
psalmist describes himself as a messenger of glad 
tidings, a true evangelist. The multiplicity of names 
for the various aspects of God's character and acts 
which he heaps together in these verses serves to 
indicate their manv, jidness, which he delighted to con- 
template, and his long, loving familiarity with them. 
He sets his treasure in all lights, and views it from all 
points, as a man will turn a jewel in his hand and get 
a fresh flash from every facet. " Righteousness," the 
good news that the Ruler of all is inflexibly just, with 


a justice which scrupulously meets all creatures* needs 
and becomes penal and awful only to the rejecters of its 
tender aspect ; *' faithfulness," the inviolable adherence 
to every promise ; " salvation/' the actual fulness of 
deliverance and well-being flowing from these attributes ; 
" loving-kindness " and " troth," often linked together 
as expressing at once the warmth and the unchange- 
ableness of the Divine heart — these have been the 
psalmist's themes. Therefore they are his hope ; and 
he is sure that, as he has been their singer, they will be 
his preservers. Ver. ii is not prayer, but bold con- 
fidence. It echoes the preceding verse, since " I did 
not restrain " (ver. 9) corresponds with ** Thou wilt 
not restrain," and "Thy loving-kindness and Thy 
troth " with the mention of the same attributes in ver. 
10. The psalmist is not so much asserting his claims 
as giving voice to his faith. He does not so much 
think that his utterance is deserving of remuneration as 
that God's character makes impossible the supposition 
that he, who had so loved and sung His great name in 
its manifold glories, should find that name unavailing 
in his hour of need. 

There is an undertone ot such felt need even in the 
confidence of ver. 1 1 ; and it becomes dominant from 
ver. 12 to the end, but not so as to overpower the clear 
note of trust. The difference between the two parts 
of the psalm is great, but is not to be exaggerated as if 
it were contrariety. In the former part thanksgiving 
for deliverance from dangers recently past predomi- 
nates ; in the latter, petition for deliverance from 
dangers still threatening : but in both the psalmist 
is exercising the same confidence; and if in the 
beginning he hymns the praises of God who brought 
him out of the pit of destruction, in the end he 


keeps firm hold of Him as His " Help and Deliverer." 
Similarly, while in the first portion he celebrates the 
"purposes which are to usward," in the latter he is 
certain that, needy as he is, Jehovah has " purposes " of 
kindness to him. The change of tone is not so complete 
as to negative the original unity, and surely it is not 
difficult to imagine a situation in which both halves of 
the psalm should be appropriate. Are there any 
deliverances in this perilous and incomplete life so 
entire and permanent that they leave no room for 
future perils ? Must not prevision of coming dangers 
accompany thankfulness for past escapes ? Our 
Pharaohs are seldom drowned in the Red Sea, and 
we do not often see their corpses stretched on the sand. 
The change of tone, of which so much use is made as 
against the original unity of the psalm, begins with ver. 
12 ; but that verse has a very strong and beautiful link 
of connection with the previous part, in the description 
of besetting evils as innumerable. Both words of ver. 5 
are repeated, that for ^' surpass " or " are more than " 
in ver. 12 c, that for *' number " in a. The heart that 
has felt how innumerable are God's thoughts and deeds 
of love is not utterly reduced to despair, even while it 
beholds a sea of troubles rolling its white-crested 
billows shoreward as far as the horizon. The sky 
stretches beyond them, and the true numberlessness 
of God's mercies outdoes the great yet really limited 
range of apparently numberless sins or sorrows, the 
consequences of sin. "Mine iniquities have over- 
taken me " like pursuing foes, and every calamity that 
held him in its grip was a child of a sin of his. Such 
consciousness of transgression is not inconsistent with 
" delight in the law of God after the inward man," as 
Paul found out (Rom. vii. 22, 2'^)^ but it sets aside the 


attempt to make this a directly Messianic psalm. " I am 
not able to see." Such is the only possible rendering, 
for there is no justification for translating the simple 
word by " look up." Either the crowd of surrounding 
calamities prevent the psalmist from seeing anything 
but themselves, or, more probably, the failure of vital 
power accompanying his sorrow dims his vision (Psalm 
xxxviii. lo). 

From ver. 13 onwards Psalm Ixx. repeats this psalm, 
with unimportant verbal differences. The first of these 
is the omission of " Be pleased " in ver. 1 3, which binds 
this second part to the first, and points back to " Thy 
pleasure " (ver. 8). The prayer for the confusion of 
enemies closely resembles that in Psalm xxxv., ver. 14 
being almost identical with vv. 4 and 26 there, and 
ver. 15 recalling ver. 21 of that psalm. The prayer 
that enemies may fail in their designs is consistent 
with the most Christlike spirit, and nothing more 
is asked by the psalmist, but the tinge of satisfaction 
with which he dwells on their discomfiture, however 
natural, belongs to the less lofty moral standard of his 
stage of revelation. He uses extraordinarily forcible 
words to paint their bewilderment and mortification — 
may they blush, turn pale, be driven back, be as if 
paralysed with shame at their bafQed malice I The 
prayer for the gladness of God's servants and seekers 
is like Psalm xxxv. 27. It asks that fruition as com- 
plete as the disappointment of the foes may be the lot 
of those whose desires set towards God, and it is pro- 
phecy as well as prayer. Seekers after God ever find 
Him, and are more joyful in possession than they hoped 
to be while seeking. He alone never eludes search, 
nor ever disappoints attainment. They who long for 
His salvation will receive it ; and their reception will fill 

xl.j THE PSALMS 29 

their hearts so full of blessedness that their lips will 
not be able to refrain from ever-new outbursts of the 
old praise, " The Lord be magnified." 

^Very plaintively and touchingly does the low sigh of 
personal need follow this triumphant intercession for the 
company of the saints. Its triple elements blend in 
one believing aspiration, which is not impatience, though 
it pleads for swift help. " I am afflicted and needy " ; 
there the psalmist turns his eye on his own sore neces- 
sity. " Jehovah has purposes for me " ; there he turns 
to God, and links his final petitions with his earlier 
trust by the repetition of the word by which he described 
(ver. 5) the many gracious designs of God. " My God, 
delay not " ; there he embraces both in one act of faithful 
longing. His need calls for, and God's loving counsels 
ensure, swift response. He who delights when an 
afflicted and poor man calls Him " my God " will not 
be slack to vindicate His servant's confidence, and 
magnify His own name. That appeal goes straight to 
the heart of God,y 


rHappy the man who considers the helpl yss ; 
In the day of calamity will Jehovah deliver him. 

2 Jehovah will preserve him and keep him alive, 
— He shall be counted happy in the land, — 

And do not Thou give him up to the wrath of his enemies. 

3 Jehovah will sustain him on the bed of languishing ; 

All his lying down in his sickness Thou hast turned into healtj^ 

4 As for me, I said, Jehovah, be merciful to me, 
Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. 

5 My enemies speak evil against me : 

" When will he die, and his name perish ? " 

6 And if one [of them] comes to see [me], he speaks falsehood (in- 

sincere sympathy) ; 
His heart collects malice for itself; 
He goes forth, he speaks it. 

7 Together against me do all my haters whisper ; 
Against me they plan my hurt : 

8 " A fatal thing is fixed upon him, 

And he who has [now] lain down will rise no more." 

9 Even the man of my peace, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, 
Has lifted his heel against me. 

10 But Thou, Jehovah, be merciful to me and raise me up^ 
That I may requite them. 

11 By this I know that Thou delightest in me. 
Since my enemy triumphs not over me. 

12 And as for me, in my integrity Thou uphold est me^ 
And settest me before Thy face for ever. 

13 Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, 
From everlasting and to everlasting 
Amen and Amen. 

THE central mass of this psalm describes the 
singer as suffering from two evils : sickness and 
treacherous friends. This situation naturally leads up 


xli.] THE PSALMS 31 

to the prayer and confidence of the closing strophe 
(w. 10-12). But its connection with the introductory 
verses (1-3) is less plain. A statement of the blessings 
ensured to the compassionate seems a singular intro- 
duction to the psalmist's pathetic exhibition of his 
sorrows. Cheyne thinks that the opening verses were 
added by the framer of the collection to adapt the poem 
to the use of the Church of his own time, and that 
" the original opening must have been different " (" Orig. 
of Psalt," 246, «.). It is to be observed, however, that 
the two points of the psalmist's affliction are the two 
from which escape is assured to the compassionate, who 
shall not be ** delivered to the desire of his enemies," 
and shall be supported and healed in sickness. (Pro- 
bably, therefore, the general promises of vv. 1-3 are 
silently applied by the psalmist to himself; and he is 
comforting his own sorrow with the assurance which 
in his humility he casts into impersonal form. He has 
been merciful, and believes, though things look dark, 
that he will obtain mercy. There is probably also an 
intentional contrast with the cruel exacerbation of his 
sufferings by uncompassionate companions, which has 
rubbed salt into his wounds. He has a double con- 
sciousness in these opening verses, inasmuch as he 
partly thinks of himself as the compassionate man and 
partly as the " weak " one who is compassionated.; 

The combination of sickness and treachery is remark- 
able, especially if the former is taken literally, as the 
strongly marked details seem to require. The sick man 
is visited by an insincere sympathiser, who is all eyes to 
note symptoms of increasing weakness, and all tongue, 
as soon as he gets out of the sick-room, to give the 
result, which is to his malice the better the worse it is. 
Such a picture looks as if drawn from life, and the 


sketch of the traitor friend seems to be a portrait of a 
real person. The supporters of the post-exilic date 
and national interpretation of the psalm have not suc- 
ceeded in pointing out who the false friends of Israel 
were, who seemed to condole with, and really rejoiced 
over, its weakness, or who were the treacherous allies 
who failed it. The theory of the Davidic origin 
has in its favour the correspondence of AhithopheFs 
treason with the treachery of the trusted friend in the 
psalm ; and, while it must be admitted that there is no 
mention of sickness in the narrative in 2 Samuel, the 
supposition that trouble of conscience had brought ill- 
ness gains some countenance from Psalm xxxii., if it is 
Davidic, and would naturally explain David's singular 
passiveness whilst Absalom was hatching his plot. 

The psalm may be divided into four strophes, of 
which, however, the two middle ones cohere very 
closely. Vv. 1-3 give the mercy requited to the 
merciful ; vv. 4-6, after a brief prayer and confession 
begin the picture of the psalmist's sufferings, which is 
carried on through the next strophe (vv. 7-9), with 
the difference that in the former the scene is mainly 
the sick man's chamber, and in the latter the meeting- 
place of the secret conspirators. Vv. 10-12 build on 
this picture of distress a prayer for deliverance, and 
rise to serene confidence in its certain answer. The 
closing doxology is not part of the psalm, but is 
appended as the conclusion of the first book of the 

The principle that God's dealings with us correspond 
to our dealings with men, as clouds are moulded after 
the curves of the mountains which they touch, is no 
less characteristic of the New Testament than of the 
Old. The merciful obtain mercy; God forgives those 

xli.] THE PSALMS 33 

who forgive their brethren. The absoluteness of state- 
ment in this psalm is, of course, open to misunderstand- 
ing ; but the singer had not such a superficial view of 
his relations to God as to suppose that kindly sympathy 
was the sole condition of Divine compassion. That 
virtue, the absence of which added pangs to his pains, 
might well seem to a sufferer writhing under the bitter- 
ness of its opposite the Divinest of all excellencies, and 
worthiest of recompense. That its requital should be 
mainly considered as consisting in temporal deliverance 
and physical health is partly due to the characteristics 
of the Old Testament promises of blessedness, and 
partly to the psalmist's momentary needs. We have 
noted that these are reflected in the blessings promised 
in vv. 1-3. The "happy" of ver. i is caught up in 
the abruptly introduced ** He shall be counted happy " 
of ver. 2, which may carry tacit reference to the 
malicious slanders that aggravated the psalmist's suffer- 
ings, and anticipates deliverance so perfect that all who 
see him shall think him fortunate. The next clause 
rises into direct address of Jehovah, and is shown by 
the form of the negative in the Hebrew to be petition, 
not assertion, thus strongly confirming the view that 
" me " lurks below " him " in this context. A similar 
transition from the third to the second person occurs m 
ver. 3, as if the psalmist drew closer to his God. There 
is also a change of tense in the verbs there : *' Jehovah 
will sustain " ; ** Thou hast turned," the latter tense 
converting the general truth expressed in the former 
clause into a fact of experience. The precise meaning 
of this verse is questioned, some regarding both clauses 
as descriptive of tender nursing, which sustains the 
drooping head and smoothes the crumpled bedding, 
while others, noting that the word rendered " bed " 
VOL. II. 3 


(A.V. and R.V.) in the second clause means properly 
"lying down," take that clause as descriptive of 
turning sickness into convalescence. The latter mean- 
ing gives a more appropriate ending to the strophe, 
as it leaves the sick man healed, not tossing on a 
disordered bed, as the other explanation does. Jehovah 
does not half cure. 

The second and third strophes (vv. 4-9) are closely 
connected. In them the psalmist recounts his sorrows 
and pains, but first breathes a prayer for mercy, and 
bases it no longer on his mercifulness, but on his sin. 
Only a shallow experience will find contradiction here 
to either the former words, or to the later profession of 
"integrity" (ver. 12). The petition for soul-healing 
does not prove that sickness in the following verses is 
figurative, but results from the belief that sorrow is 
the effect of sin, a view which belongs to the psalmist*s 
stage of revelation, and is not to be held by Christians 
in the same absolute fashion. If the DaVidic origin of 
the psalm is recognised, the connection of the king's 
great sin with all his after-sorrows is patent. However 
he had been merciful and compassionate in general, his 
own verdict on the man in Nathan's parable was that 
he " showed no pity," and that sin bore bitter fruit in 
all his life. It was the parent of all the sensual outrages 
in his own house ; it underlay Ahithophel's treachery ; 
it had much to do in making his reign abhorred; it 
brought the fuel which Absalom fired, and if our sup- 
position is right as to the origin of the sickness spoken of 
in this psalm, that sin and the remorse that followed it 
gnawed at the roots of bodily health. So the psalmist, 
if he is indeed the royal sinner, had need to pray for 
soul-healing first, even though he was conscious of 
much compassion and hoped for its recompense. While 

xli.] THE PSALMS 35 

he speaks thus to Jehovah, his enemies speak in a 
different tone. The "evil" which they utter is not 
calumny, but malediction. Their hatred is impatient 
for his death. The time seems long till they can hear 
of it. One of them comes on a hypocritical visit of 
solicitude ("see" is used for visiting the sick in 
2 Kings viii. 29), and speaks lying condolence, while 
he greedily collects encouraging symptoms that the 
disease is hopeless. Then he hurries back to tell how 
much worse he had found the patient ; and that ignoble 
crew delight in the good news, and send it flying. 
This very special detail goes strongly in favour of the 
view that we have in this whole description a transcript 
of hteral, personal experience. There were plenty of 
concealed enemies round David in the early stages of 
Absalom's conspiracy, who would look eagerly for signs 
of his approaching death, which might save the need 
of open revolt and plunge the kingdom into welcome 
confusion. The second strophe ends with the exit of 
the false friend. 

The third (vv. 7-9) carries him to the meeting-place 
of the plotters, who eagerly receive and retail the good 
news that the sick man is worse. They feed their 
ignoble hate by picturing further ill as laying hold of 
him. Their wish is parent to their thought, which is 
confirmed by the report of their emissary. " A thing 
of Belial is poured out on him," or " is fastened upon 
him," say they. That unusual expression may refer 
either to moral or physical evil. In the former sense 
it would here mean the sufferer's sin, in the latter 
a fatal disease. The connection makes the physical 
reference the more likely. This incurable disease is 
conceived of as " poured out," or perhaps as " molten 
on him," so that it cannot be separated from him. 


Therefore he will never rise from his sick-bed. But 
even this murderous glee is not the psalmist's sharpest 
pang. "The man of my peace," trusted, honoured, 
admitted to the privileges, and therefore bound by the 
obligations, of hospitality so sacred in the old world, 
has kicked the prostrate sufferer, as the ass in the fable 
did the sick lion. The treachery of Ahithophel at once 
occurs to mind. No doubt many treacherous friends 
have wounded many trustful hearts, but the corre- 
spondence of David's history with this detail is not to 
be got rid of by the observation that treachery is 
common. Still less is it sufficient to quote Obad. 7, 
where substantially the same language is employed 
in reference to the enemies of Edom, as supporting the 
national reference of the present passage. No one 
denies that false allies may be described by such 
a figure, or that nations may be personified ; but is 
there any event in the post-exilic history which shows 
Israel deceived and spurned by trusted allies ? The 
Davidic authorship and the personal reference of the 
psalm are separable. But \i the latter is adopted, it 
will be hard to find any circumstances answering so 
fully to the details of the psalm as the Absalomic 
rebellion and Ahithophel's treason. Our Lord's quota- 
tion of part of ver. 9, with the significant omission of 
"in whom I trusted," does not imply the Messianic 
character of the psalm, but is an instance of an event 
and a saying which were not meant as prophetic, 
finding fuller realisation in the life of the perfect type 
of suffering godliness than in the original sufferer. 

The last strophe (w. 10-12) recurs to prayer, and 
soars to confidence born of communion. A hand 
stretched out in need and trust soon comes back filled 
with blessings. Therefore here the moment of true 

xli.] THE PSALMS 37 

petition is the moment of realised answer. The prayer 
traverses the malicious hopes of enemies. They had 
said, " He will rise no more " ; it prays, " Raise me up." 
It touches a note which sounds discordant in the desire 
" that I may requite them " ; and it is far more truly 
reverential and appreciative of the progress of revela- 
tion to recognise the relative inferiority of the psalmist's 
wish to render quid pro quo than to put violence on 
his words, in order to harmonise them with Christian 
ethics, or to slur over the distinction between the Law, 
of which the keynote was retribution, and the Gospel, 
of which it is forgiveness. 

But the last words of the psalm are sunny with the 
assurance of present favour and with boundless hope. 
The man is still lying on his sick-bed, ringed by 
whispering foes. There is no change without, but this 
change has passed : that he has tightened his hold of 
God, and therefore can feel that his enemies' whispers 
will never rise or swell into a shout of victory over him. 
He can speak of the future deliverance as if present ; 
and he can look ahead over an indefinite stretch of 
sunlit country, scarcely knowing whether the furthest 
point is earth or no. His integrity is not sinless, nor 
does he plead it as a reason for Jehovah's upholding, 
but hopes for it as the consequence of His sustaining 
hand. He knows that he will have close approach to 
Jehovah ; and though, no doubt, " for ever " on his 
lips meant less than it does on ours, his assurance of 
continuous communion with God reached, if not to 
actual, clear consciousness of immortality, at all events 
to assurance of a future so indefinitely extended, and 
so brightened by the sunlight of God's face, that it 
wanted but little additional extension or brightening 
to be the full assurance of life immortal. 




Psalm xlii. 

1 ^Like a hind which pants after the water-brooks, 

So pants my soul after Thee, O God. 

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God ; 
When shall I come and appear before God ? 

3 My tears have been bread to me day and night, 
While they say to me all the day, Where is thy God ?) 

4 This would I remember, and pour out my soul in me, 

How I went with the throng, led them in procession to the house 

of God, 
With shrill cries of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping 


5 Why art thou bowed down, my soul, and moanest within me ? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet give Him thanks, 

[As] the help of my countenance and my God. 

6 Within me is my soul bowed down ; 

Therefore let me remember Thee from the land of Jordan and of 
the Hermons, from Mount Mizar. 

7 Flood calls to flood at the voice of Thy cataracts ; 
All Thy breakers and rollers are gone over me. 

8 [Yet] by day will Jehovah command His loving-kindness, 
And in the night shall a song to Him be with me, 
[Even] a prajer to the God of my life. 

9 Let me say to God my Rock, Why hast Thou forgotten me ? 
Why must I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy ? 

10 As if they crushed my bones, my adversaries reproach me, 
Whilst all the day they say to me, Where is thy God ? 

11 Why art thou bowed down, my soul, and why moanest thou 

within me ? 
Hope thou in God, for I shall yet give Him thanks 
[As] the help of my countenance and my God. 



Psalm xliii. 

1 Do me right, O God, and plead my plea against a loveless nation ; 
From the man of fraud and mischief rescue me. 

2 For Thou art God my stronghold ; why hast Thou cast me off? 
Why must I wearily go mourning because of the oppression of the 

enemy ? 

3 Send out Thy light and Thy troth ; let them lead me ; 

Let them bring me to Thy holy hill and to Thy tabernacles, 

4 That I may come in to the altar of God, 
To God, the gladness of my joy, 

And give Thee thanks with the harp, O God, my God. 

5 Why art thou bowed down, my soul, and why moanest thou 

within me ? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet give Him thanks, 
[As] the help of my countenance and my God. 

THE second book of the Psalter is characterised by 
the use of the Divine name " Elohim " instead of 
"Jehovah." It begins with a cluster of seven psalms 
(reckoning Psalms xlii. and xliii. as one) of which the 
superscription is most probably regarded as ascribing 
their authorship to " the sons of Korach." These were 
Levites, and (according to I Chron. ix. 19 seq!) the 
office of keepers of the door of the sanctuary had been 
hereditary in their family from the time of Moses. 
Some of them were among the faithful adherents of 
David at Ziklag (i Chron. xii. 6), and in the new model 
of worship inaugurated by him the Korachites were 
doorkeepers and musicians. They retained the former 
office in the second Temple (Neh. xi. 19). The ascrip- 
tion of authorship to a group is remarkable, and has 
led to the suggestion that the superscription does not 
specify the authors, but the persons for whose use the 
psalms in question were composed. The Hebrew 
would bear either meaning ; but if the latter is adopted, 
all these psalms are anonymous. The same construc- 
tion is found in Book I. in Psalms xxv.-xxviii., xxxv., 

xlii^xliii.] THE PSALMS 43 

XXX vii., where it is obviously the designation of 
authorship, and it is naturally taken to have the same 
force in these Korachite psalms. It has been ingeni- 
ously conjectured by Delitzsch that the Korachite 
Psalms originally formed a separate collection entitled 
" Songs of the Sons of Korach," and that this title after- 
wards passed over into the superscriptions when they 
were incorporated in the Psalter. It may have been so, 
but the supposition is unnecessary. It was not exactly 
literary fame which psalmists hungered for. The 
actual author, as one of a band of kinsmen who worked 
and sang together, would, not unnaturally, be content to 
sink his individuality and let his song go forth as that 
of the band. Clearly the superscriptions rested upon 
some tradition or knowledge, else defective information 
would not have been acknowledged as it is in this one ; 
but some name would have been coined to fill the gap. 

The two psalms (xlii., xliii.) are plainly one. The 
absence of a title for the second, the identity of tone 
throughout, the recurrence of several phrases, and 
especially of the refrain, put this beyond doubt. The 
separation, however, is old, since it is found in the LXX. 
It is useless to speculate on its origin. 

(There is much in the psalms which favours the hypo- 
thesis that the author was a Korachite companion of 
David's in his flight before Absalom ; but the locality, 
described as that of the singer, does not entirely corre- 
spond to that of the king's retreat, and the description 
of the enemies is not easily capable of application in all 
points to his foes. The house of God is still standing ; 
the poet has been there recently, and hopes soon to 
return and render praise. Therefore the psalm must 
be pre-exilic ; and while there is no certainty attainable 
as to date, it may at least be said that the circum- 


Stances of the singer present more points of contact 
with those of the supposed Korachite follower of 
David's fortunes on the uplands across Jordan than 
with those of any other of the imaginary persons to 
whom modern criticism has assigned the poem. Who- 
ever wrote it has given immortal form to the longings 
of the soul after God. He has fixed for ever and made 
melodious a sigh.j 

The psalm falls into three parts, each closing with 
the same refrain. Longings and tears, remembrances of 
festal hours passed in the sanctuary melt the singer's 
soul, while taunting enemies hiss continual sarcasms at 
him as forsaken by his God. But his truer self silences 
these lamentations, and cheers the feebler " soul " with 
clear notes of trust and hope, blown in the refrain, like 
some trumpet-clang rallying dispirited fugitives to the 
fight. The stimulus serves for a moment ; but once 
more courage fails, and once more, at yet greater length 
and with yet sadder tones, plaints and longings are 
wailed forth. Once more, too, the higher self repeats 
its half-rebuke, half-encouragement. So ends the first 
of the psalms ; but obviously it is no real ending, for 
the victory over fear is not won, and longing has 
not become blessed. So once more the wave of 
emotion rolls over the psalmist, but with a new aspect 
which makes all the difference. He prays now; he 
had only remembered and complained and said that he 
would pray before. Therefore now he triumphs, and 
though he still is keenly conscious of his enemies, they 
appear but for a moment, and, though he still feels that 
he is far from the sanctuary, his heart goes out in 
hopeful visions of the gladness of his return thither, 
and he already tastes the rapture of the joy that will 
then flood his heart. Therefore the refrain comes for 

xlii., xliii.] THE PSALMS 45 

a third time ; and this time the longing, trembling soul 
continues at the height to which the better self has 
lifted it, and silently acknowledges that it need not 
have been cast down. Thus the whole song is a 
picture of a soul climbing, not without backward slips, 
from the depths to the heights, or, in another aspect, 
of the transformation of longing into certainty of 
fruition, which is itself fruition after a kind. 

Perhaps the singer had seen, during his exile on the 
eastern side of Jordan, some gentle creature, with open 
mouth and heaving flanks, eagerly seeking in dry 
wadies for a drop of water to cool her outstretched 
tongue ; and the sight had struck on his heart as an 
image of himself longing for the presence of God in the 
sanctuary. A similar bit of local colour is generally 
recognised in ver. 7. Nature reflects the poet's moods, 
and overmastering emotion sees its own analogues 
everywhere. That lovely metaphor has touched the 
common heart as few have done, and the solitary 
singer's plaint has fitted all devout lips. Injustice is 
done it, if it is regarded merely as the longing of a 
Levite for approach to the sanctuary. No doubt the 
psalmist connected communion with God and presence 
in the Temple more closely together than they should 
do who have heard the great charter, " neither in this 
mountain, nor in Jerusalem " ; but, however the two 
things were coupled in his mind, they were sufficiently 
separate to allow of approach by longing and prayer 
while distant in body, and the true object of yearning 
was not access to the Temple, but communion with the 
God of the Temple. 

The "soul" is feminine in Hebrew, and is here 
compared to the female deer, for "pants" is the feminine 
form of the verb, though its noun is masculine. It is 


better therefore to translate " hind " than " hart." The 
"soul" is the seat of emotions and desires. It "pants" 
and " thirsts," is " cast down " and disquieted ; it is 
" poured out " ; it can be bidden to " hope." Thus 
tremulous, timid, mobile, it is beautifully compared to a 
hind. The true object of its longings is always God, 
however little it knows for what it is thirsting. But 
they are happy in their very yearnings who are 
conscious of the true direction of these, and can say 
that it is God for whom they are athirst. All unrest 
of longing, all fever of thirst, all outgoings of desire, 
are feelers put out blindly, and are only stilled when 
they clasp Him. The correspondence between man's 
needs and their true object is involved in that name 
" the living God " ; for a heart can rest only in one 
all-sufficient Person, and must have a heart to throb 
against. Neither abstractions nor dead things can still 
its cravings. That which does must be living. But 
no finite being can still them ; and after all sweetnesses 
of human loves and helps of human strengths, the 
soul's thirst remains unslaked, and the Person who is 
enough must be the living God. The difference between 
the devout and the worldly man is just that the one 
can only say, "My soul pants and thirsts," and the 
other can add " after Thee, O God." 

This man's longing was intensified by his unwilling 
exile from the sanctuary, a special privation to a door- 
keeper of the Temple. His situation and mood closely 
resemble those in another Korachite psalm (Ixxxiv.), 
in which, as here, the soul "faints for the courts of 
the Lord," and as here the panting hind, so there the 
glancing swallows flitting about the eaves are woven 
into the song. Unnamed foes taunt the psalmist with 
the question, " Where is thy God ? " There is no 

xlii.,xliii.] THE PSALMS 47 

necessity to conclude that these were heathens, though 
the taunt is usually put into heathen lips (Psalms Ixxix. 
lo; lii. 2) but it would be quite as natural from 
co-religionists, flouting his fervour and personal grasp 
of God and taking his sorrows as tokens of God's 
abandonment of him. That is the world's way with 
the calamities of a devout man, whose humble cry, " My 
God," it resents as presumption or hypocrisy. 

But even these bitter sarcasms are less bitter than the 
remembrance of ** happier things," which is his "sorrow's 
crown of sorrow." Yet, with the strange but universal 
love of summoning up remembrance of departed joys, 
the psalmist finds a certain pleasure in the pain of 
recalling how he, a Levite, led the festal march to the 
Temple, and in listening in fancy again to the shrill cries 
of joy which broke from the tumultuous crowd. The 
form of the verbs "remember" and "pour out" in 
ver. 4 indicates set purpose. 

The higher self arrests this flow of self-pity and 
lamentation. The feminine soul has to give account 
of her moods to calmer judgment, and to be lifted and 
steadied by the strong spirit. The preceding verses 
have given ample reason why she has been dejected, 
but now she is summoned to repeat them to a judicial 
ear. The insufficiency of the circumstances described 
to warrant the vehement emotions expressed is implied 
in the summons. Feeling has to vindicate its ration- 
ality or to suppress itself, and its grounds have often 
only to be stated to the better self, to be found altogether 
disproportioned to the storm they have raised. It is 
a very elementary but necessary lesson for the conduct 
of life that emotion of all sorts, sad or glad, religious 
or other, needs rigid scrutiny and firm control, some- 
times stimulating and sometimes chilling. The true 


counterpoise to its excess lies in directing it to God 
and in making Him the object of hope and patient 
waiting. Emotion varies, but God is the same. The 
facts on which faith feeds abide while faith fluctuates. 
The secret of calm is to dwell in that inner chamber 
of the secret place of the Most High, which whoso 
inhabits " heareth not the loud winds when they call," 
and is neither dejected nor uplifted, neither disturbed 
by excessive joys nor torn by anxieties. 

Ver. 5 has the refrain in a form slightly different 
from that of the other two instances of its occurrence 
(ver. 1 1 and xliii. 5). But probably the text is faulty. 
The shifting of the initial word of ver. 6 to the end of 
ver. 5, and the substitution of My for His^ bring the 
three refrains into line, and avoid the harsh expres- 
sion " help of His countenance." Since no reason for 
the variation is discernible, and the proposed slight 
change of text improves construction and restores uni- 
formity, it is probably to be adopted. If it is, the second 
part of the psalm is also conformed to the other two in 
regard to its not beginning with the Divine name. 

The break in the clouds is but momentary, and the 
grey wrack fills the sky once more. The second part 
of the psalm takes up the question of the refrain, and 
first reiterates with bitter emphasis that the soul ^5 
bowed down, and then pours out once more the stream 
of reasons for dejection. But the curb has not Leeii 
applied quite in vain, for throughout the succeeding 
verses there is a striking alternation of despondency 
and hope. Streaks of brightness flash through the 
gloom. Sorrow is shot with trust. This conflict of 
opposite emotions is the characteristic of the second 
part of the psalm, while that of the first part is an all 
but unrelieved predominance of gloom, and that of 

xlil,xliii.] THE PSALMS 49 

the third an all but undisputed victory of sunshine. 
Naturally this transition strophe is marked by the 
mingling of both. In the former part, memory was 
the handmaid of sorrow, and came involuntarily, and 
increased the singer's pain ; but in this part he makes 
an effort of will to remember, and in remembrance 
finds an antidote to sorrow. To recall past joys adds 
stings to present grief, but to remember God brings an 
anodyne for the smart. The psalmist is far from the 
sanctuary, but distance does not hinder thought. This 
man's faith was not so dependent on externals tbpf it 
could not come close to God while distant from His 
temple. It had been so far strengthened by the en- 
couragement of the refrain that the reflux of sadness at 
once rouses it to action. ** My soul is cast down ; . . . 
therefore let me remember Thee." With wise resolve he 
finds in dejection a reason for nestling closer to God. 
In reference to the description of the psalmist's locality, 
Cheyne beautifully says, " The preposition ' from ' is 
chosen (rather than 'in') with a subtle purpose. It 
suggests that the psalmist's faith will bridge over the 
interval between himself and the sanctuary : * I can send 
my thoughts to Thee from the distant frontier ' " (in loc). 
The region intended seems to be " the north-eastern 
corner of Palestine, near the lower slopes of Hermon " 
(Cheyne, u.s.). The plural ** Hermons " is probably 
used in reference to the group of crests. " Mizar " is 
probably the name of a hill otherwise unknown, and 
specifies the singer's locality more minutely, though not 
helpfully to us. Many ingenious attempts have been 
made to explain the name either as symbolical or as a 
common noun, and not a proper name, but these need 
not be dealt with here. The locality thus designated 
is too far north for the scene of David's retreat before 
VOL. II. 4 


Absalom, unless we give an unusual southward exten- 
sion to the names ; and this makes a difficulty in the 
way of accepting the hypothesis of the author's having 
been in his retinue. 

The twofold emotions of ver. 6 recur in vv. 7, 8, 
where we have first renewed despondency and then 
reaction into hope. The imagery of floods lifting up 
their voices, and cataracts sounding as they fall, and 
breaking waves rolling over the half-drowned psalmist 
has been supposed to be suggested by the scenery in 
which he was ; but the rushing noise of Jordan in its 
rocky bed seems scarcely enough to deserve being 
described as "flood calling to flood," and "breakers 
and rollers " is an exaggeration if applied to any com- 
motion possible on such a stream. The imagery is so 
usual that it needs no assumption of having been 
occasioned by the poet's locality. The psalmist paints 
his calamities as storming on him in dismal continuity, 
each " flood " seeming to summon its successor. They 
rush upon him, multitudinous and close following ; they 
pour down on him as with the thunder of descending 
cataracts; they overwhelm him like the breakers and 
rollers of an angry ocean. The bold metaphors are 
more striking when contrasted with the opposite ones 
of the first part. The dry and thirsty land there and 
the rush of waters here mean the same thing, so 
flexible is nature in a poet's hands. 

Then follows a gleam of hope, like a rainbow spanning 
the waterfall. With the alternation of mood already 
noticed as characteristic, the singer looks forward, even 
from the midst of overwhelming seas of trouble, to a 
future day when God will give His angel, Mercy or 
Loving-kindness, charge concerning him and draw hinr- 
out of many waters. That day of extrication will surely 

xlii.,xliii.] THE PSALMS $1 

be followed by a night of music and of thankful prayer 
(for supplication is not the only element in prayer) to Him 
who by His deliverance has shown Himself to be the 
"God of" the rescued man's " life." The epithet answers 
to that of the former part, '* the living God," from which 
it differs by but one additional letter. He who has life 
in Himself is the Giver and Rescuer of our lives, and 
to Him they are to be rendered in thankful sacrifice. 
Once more the contending currents meet in vv. 9 and 
10, in the former of which confidence and hope utter 
themselves in the resolve to appeal to God and in the 
name given to Him as ** my Rock " ; while another surge 
of despondency breaks, in the question in which the 
soul interrogates God, as the better self had interrogated 
her, and contrasts almost reproachfully God's apparent 
forgetfulness, manifested by His delay in deliverance, 
with her remembrance of Him. It is not a question 
asked for enlightenment's sake, but is an exclamation 
of impatience, if not of rebuke. Ver. 10 repeats the 
enemies' taunt, which is there represented as like 
crushing blows which broke the bones. And then 
once more above this conflict of emotion soars the clear 
note of the refrain, summoning to self-command, calm- 
ness, and unfaltering hope. 

But the victory is not quite won, and therefore Psalm 
xliii. follows. It is sufficiently distinct in tone to 
explain its separation from the preceding, inasmuch as 
it is prayer throughout, and the note of joy is dominant, 
even while an undertone of sadness links it with the 
previous parts. The unity is vouched by the considera- 
tions already noticed, and by the incompleteness of 
Psalm xlii. without such triumphant close and of 
Psalm xliii. without such despondent beginning. The 
prayer of vv. I, 2, blends the two elements, which were 


at war in the second part ; and for the moment the 
darker is the more prominent. The situation is 
described as in the preceding parts. The enemy is 
called a ** loveless nation." The word rendered ** love- 
less " is compounded of the negative prefix and the word 
which is usually found with the meaning of " one 
whom God favours," or visits with loving-kindness. It 
has been much disputed whether its proper signification 
is active (one who shows loving-kindness) or passive 
(one who receives it). But, considering that loving- 
kindness is in the Psalter mainly a Divine attribute, and 
that, when a human excellence, it is regarded as derived 
from and being the echo of experienced Divine mercy, 
it is best to take the passive meaning as the principal, 
though sometimes, as unmistakably here, the active is 
more suitable. These loveless people are not further 
defined, and may either have been Israelites or aliens. 
Perhaps there was one " man " of special mischief 
prominent among them, but it is not safe to treat that 
expression as anything but a collective. Ver. 2 looks 
back to xlii. 9, the former clause in each verse being 
practically equivalent, and the second in xliii. being a 
quotation of the second in ver. 9, with a variation in 
the form of the verb to suggest more vividly the 
picture of weary, slow, dragging gait, fit for a man clad 
in mourning garb. 

But the gloomier mood has shot its last bolt. Grief 
which finds no fresh words is beginning to dry up. 
The stage of mechanical repetition of complaints is 
not far from that of cessation of them. So the higher 
mood conquers at last, and breaks into a burst of 
joyous petition, which passes swiftly into realisation 
of the future joys whose coming shines thus far off*. 
Hope and trust hold the field. The certainty of 

xlii.,xliii.] THE PSALMS 53 

return to the Temple overbears the pain of absence 
from it, and the vivid reahsation of the gladness of 
worshipping again at the altar takes the place of the 
vivid remembrance of former festal approach thither. 
It is the prerogative of faith to make pictures drawn 
by memory pale beside those painted by hope. Light 
and Troth — i.e.^ Loving-kindness and Faithfulness in 
fulfilling promises — are like two angels, despatched from 
the presence-chamber of God, to guide with gentleness 
the exile's steps. That is to say, because God is 
mercy and faithfulness, the return of the psalmist to 
the home of his heart is sure. God being what He 
is, no longing soul can ever remain unsatisfied. The 
actual return to the Temple is desired because thereby 
new praise will be occasioned. Not mere bodily pre- 
sence there, but that joyful outpouring of triumph 
and gladness, is the object of the psalmist's longing. 
He began with yearning after the living God. In his 
sorrow he could still think of Him at intervals as the 
help of his countenance and call Him " my God." He 
ends with naming Him " the gladness of my joy." 
Whoever begins as he did will finish where he climbed. 
The refrain is repeated for a third time, and is followed 
by no relapse into sadness. The effort of faith should 
be persistent, even if old bitternesses begin again and 
" break the low beginnings of content " ; for, even if the 
wild waters burst through the dam once and again, they 
do not utterly wash it away, and there remains a 
foundation on which it may be built up anew. Each 
swing of the gymnast lifts him higher, until he is on 
a level with a lirm platform on which he can spring and 
stand secure. Faith may have a long struggle with fear, 
but it will have the last word, and that word will be 
" the help of my countenance and my God." 


)i O God, with ou: ears we have heard. 
Our fathers have told to us, 
The work Thou didst work in their days. 
In the days of yore. 

2 Thou [with] Thy hand didst dispossess nations, and didst plant 

Didst afflict peoples and spread them forth. 

3 For not by their own sword did they possess the land, 
And their own arm did not save them. 

But Thy right hand and Thine arm, and the light of Thy facc^ 
Because Thou hadst delight in themJ 

4 Thou Thyself art my King, O God ; 
Command salvations for Jacob. 

5 Through Thee can we butt down our oppressors ; 

In Thy name can we trample those that rise against uSt 

6 For not in my own bow do I trust, 
And my own sword does not save me. 

7 But Thou hast saved us from our oppressorS| 
And our haters Thou hast put to shame. 

8 In God have we made our boast all the day, 
And Thy name will we thank for ever. Selah. 

9 Yet Thou hast cast [us] off and shamed us, 
And goest not forth with our hosts. 

10 Thou makest us turn back from the oppressor, 
And our haters plunder to their hearts' content, 

1 1 Thou makest us like sheep for food, 

And among the nations hast Thou scattered ua* 

12 Thou sellest Thy people at no profit. 

And hast not increased [Thy wealth] by their pricey 

13 Thou makest us a reproach for our neighbours, 
A mockery and derision to those around us, 

14 Thou makest us a proverb among the nations^ 
A nodding of the head among the peoples. 


xliv.] THE PSALMS 55 

15 All the day is my dishonour before me, 
And the shame of my face has covered me, 

16 Because of the voice of the rebuker and blasphemer, 
Because of the face of the enemy and the revengeful. 

17 All this is come upon us, and [yet] have we not forgotten Thee, 
Nor been false to Thy covenant, 

18 Our heart has not turned back. 

Nor our footsteps swerved from Thy way, 

19 That Thou shouldest have crushed us in the place of jackals, 
And covered us with thick darkness. 

20 If we had forgotten the name of our God 
And spread out our hands to a strange God, 

21 Would not God search out this? for He knows the secrets of 

the heart. 

22 Nay, for Thy sake are we killed all the day \ 
We are reckoned as sheep for slaughter. 

23 Awake ; why sleepest Thou, Lord ? 
Arise ; cast not off for ever. 

24 Why hidest Thou Thy face, 
Forgettest our affliction and oppression ? 

25 For bowed to the dust is our soul; 
Our body cleaves to the earth. 

26 Arise [for] a help for us. 

And redeem us for Thy loving-kindness* sake. 

CALVIN says that the authorship of this psalm is 
uncertain, but that it is abundantly clear that it 
was composed by any one rather than David, and that 
its plaintive contents suit best the time when the savage 
tyranny of Antiochus raged. No period corresponds 
to the situation which makes the background of the 
psalm so completely as the Maccabean, for only then 
could it be truly said that national calamities fell 
because of the nation's rigid monotheism. Other 
epochs have been thought of, so as to avoid the 
necessity of recognising Maccabean psalms, but none 
of them can be said to meet the conditions described in 
the psalm. The choice lies between accepting the Mac- 
cabean date and giving up the attempt to fix one at all. 


Objections to that late date based upon the history of 
the completion of the canon take for granted more 
accurate and complete knowledge of a very obscure sub- 
ject than is possessed, and do not seem strong enough to 
negative the indications arising from the very unique 
fact, asserted in the psalm, that the nation was perse- 
cuted for its faith and engaged in a religious war. 
The psalm falls into four parts : a wistful look backwards 
to days already " old," when God fought for them (vv. 
1-8) ; a sad contrast in present oppression (w. 9-16) ; 
a profession of unfaltering national adherence to the 
covenant notwithstanding all these ills (w. 17-22); and 
a fervent cry to a God who seems asleep to awake and 
rescue His martyred people (vv. 23-26). 
f The first part (vv. 1-8) recalls the fact that shone 
so brightly in all the past, the continual exercise of 
Divine power giving victory to their weakness, and 
builds thereon a prayer that the same law of His 
providence might be fulfilled now. The bitter side of 
the retrospect forces itself into consciousness in the 
next part, but here Memory is the handmaid of Faith. 
The whole process of the Exodus and conquest of 
Canaan is gathered up as one great " work " of God's 
hand. The former inhabitants of the land were up- 
rooted like old trees, to give room for planting the 
"vine out of Egypt." Two stages in the settlement are 
distinguished in ver. 2 : first came the ** planting " and 
next the growth ; for the phrase " didst spread them 
forth " carries on the metaphor of the tree, and expresses 
the ext'^nsion of its roots and branches. The ascrip- 
tion of victory to God is made more emphatic by the 
n'^'gatives in ver. 3, which take away all credit of it 
i^om the people's own weapons or strength. The 
consciousness of our own impotence must accompany 

xliv.] THE PSALMS. 57 

adequate recognition of God's agency in our deliverances. 
The conceit of our own power blinds our vision of His 
working hand.) But what moved His power? No 
merit of man's, but the infinite free grace of God's 
heart. **The light of Thy face" is the symbol of 
God's loving regard, and the deepest truth as to His 
acts of favour is that they are the outcome of His 
own merciful nature. He is His own motive. " Thou 
hadst delight in them " is the ultimate word, leading us 
into sacred abysses of self-existent and self-originated 
Deity. The spirit, then, of Israel's history is contained 
in these three thoughts : the positive assertion of God's 
power as the reason for their victories ; the confirmatory 
negative, putting aside their own prowess ; and the 
tracing of all God's work for them solely to His 
unmerited grace. 

On this grand generalisation of the meaning of 
past centuries a prayer is built for their repetition 
in the prosaic present. The psalmist did not think 
that God was nearer in some majestic past than 
now. His unchangeableness had for consequence, 
as he thought, continuous manifestation of Himself in 
the same character and relation to His people. To- 
day is as full of God as any yesterday. Therefore 
ver. 4 begins with an emphatic recognition of the 
constancy of the Divine nature in that strong ex- 
pression " Thou Thyself," and with an individualising 
transition for a moment to the singular in " my King," 
in order to give most forcible utterance to the thought 
that He was the same to each man of that generation 
as He had been to the fathers. On that unchanging 
relation rests the prayer, *' Command salvations for 
(lit. of) Jacob," as if a multitude of several acts of 
deliver \nce stood before God, as servants waiting to 


be sent on His errands. Just as God (Elohim) takes 
the place of Jehovah in this second book of the Psalter, 
so in it Jacob frequently stands for Israel. The prayer 
is no sooner spoken than the confidence in its fulfil- 
ment lifts the suppliant's heart buoyantly above pre- 
sent defeat, which will in the next turn of thought 
insist on being felt. Such is the magic of every act 
of true appeal to God. However dark the horizon, 
there is light if a man looks straight up. Thus this 
psalmist breaks into anticipatory paeans of victory. 
The vivid image of ver. 5 is taken from the manner 
of fighting common to wild horned animals, buffaloes 
and the like, who first prostrate their foe by their 
fierce charge and then trample him. The individual- 
ising " my " reappears in ver. 6, where the negation 
that had been true of the ancestors is made his own 
by the descendant. Each man must, as his own act, 
appropriate the universal relation of God to men and 
make God his God, and must also disown for himself 
reliance on himself So he will enter into participa- 
tion in God's victories. Remembrance of the victorious 
past and confidence in a like victorious future blend 
in the closing burst of praise and vow for its con- 
tinuance, which vow takes for granted the future 
continued manifestation of deliverances as occasions for 
uninterrupted thanksgivings. Well might some long- 
drawn, triumphant notes from the instruments prolong 
the impression of the jubilant words. 

The song drops in the second part (w. 9-16) from 
these clear heights with lyric suddenness. The grim 
facts of defeat and consequent exposure to mocking 
laughter from enemies force themselves into sight, and 
seem utterly to contradict the preceding verses. But 
the first part speaks with the voice of faith, and the 

xliv.] THE PSALMS 59 

second with that of sense, and these two may sound in 
very close sequence or even simultaneously. In ver. 9 
the two verbs are united by the absence of " us " with 
the first; and the difference of tense in the Hebrew 
brings out the dependence of the second on the first, as 
effect and cause. God's rejection is the reason for the 
nation's disgrace by defeat. In the subsequent verses 
the thoughts of rejection and disgrace are expanded, the 
former in ver. 9 A to ver. 12, and the latter in w. 13-16. 
The poet paints with few strokes the whole disastrous 
rout. We see the fated band going out to battle, with 
no Pillar of Cloud or Ark of the Covenant at their head. 
They have but their own weapons and sinews to depend 
on — not, as of old, a Divine Captain. No descriptior 
of a fight under such conditions is needed, for it can 
have only one issue ; and so the next clause shows 
panic-struck flight. Whoever goes into battle without 
God comes out of it without victory. Next follows 
plundering, as was the savage wont of these times, and 
there is no force to oppose the spoilers. The routed 
fugitives are defenceless and unresisting as sheep, and 
their fate is to be devoured, or possibly the expression 
"sheep for food" may be substantially equivalent to 
"sheep for the slaughter" (ver. 22), and may refer to 
the usual butchery of a defeated army. Some of them 
are slain and others carried off as slaves. The precise 
rendering of ver. 12^ is doubtful. Calvin, and, among 
the moderns, Hitzig, Ewald, Delitzsch, Cheyne, take 
it to mean "Thou didst not set their prices high." 
Others, such as Hupfeld, Baethgen, etc., adhere to the 
rendering, "Thou didst not increase [Thy wealth] by 
their price." The general sense is clear, and as bold 
as clear. It is almost sarcasm, directed against the 
Divine dealings ; little has He gained by letting His 


flock be devoured and scattered. Hupfeld attaches 
to the bitter saying a deep meaning : namely, that the 
*' sale " did not take place " for the sake of profit or 
other external worldly ends, as is the case with men, 
but from higher disciplinary grounds of the Divine 
government — namely, simply as punishment for their 
sins, for their improvement." Rather it may indicate 
the dishonour accruing to the God, according to the 
ideas of the old world, when His votaries were defeated ; 
or it may be the bitter reflection, " We can be of little 
worth in our Shepherd's eyes when He parts with us 
so easily." If there is any hint of tarnish adhering to 
the name of God by His people's defeat, the passage 
to the second main idea of this part is the easier. 

Defeat brings dishonour. The nearer nations, such 
as Edomites, Ammonites, and other ancestral foes, are 
ready with their gibes. The more distant peoples make 
a proverb out of the tragedy, and nod their heads 
in triumph and scorn. The cowering creature, in the 
middle of this ring of mockers, is covered with shame 
as he hears the babel of heartless jests at his expense, 
and steals a glance at the fierce faces round him. 

It is difficult to find historical facts corresponding 
with this picture. Even if the feature of selHng into 
captivity is treated as metaphor, the rest of the picture 
needs some pressure to be made to fit the conditions 
of the Maccabean struggle, to which alone the sub- 
sequent avowals of faithfulness to God as the cause of 
calamity answer. For there were no such periods of 
disgraceful defeat and utter devastation when once that 
heroic revolt had begun. The third part of the psalm 
is in full accord with the religious consciousness of that 
Indian summer of national glories ; but it must be 
acknowledged that the state of things described in 

xliv.] THE PSALMS 61 

this second part does not fit quite smoothly into the 
hypothesis of a Maccabean date. 

The third part (vv. 17-22) brings closely together 
professions of righteousness, which sound strangely 
in Christian ears, and complaints of suffering, and closes 
with the assertion that these two are cause and effect. 
The sufferers are a nation of martyrs, and know them- 
selves to be so. This tone is remarkable when the 
nation is the speaker; for though we find individuals 
asserting innocence and complaining of undeserved 
afflictions in many psalms, a declaration of national 
conformity with the Law is in sharp contradiction both 
to history and to the uniform tone of prophets. This 
psalmist asserts not only national freedom from idolatry, 
but adherence in heart and act to the Covenant. No 
period before the exile was clear of the taint of idol 
worship and yet darkened by calamity. We have no 
record of any events before the persecutions that 
roused the Maccabean struggle which answer to the 
martyr cry of ver. 22 : *' For Thy sake we are killed 
all the day." It may, indeed, be questioned what is 
the relation in time of the two facts spoken of in 
vv. 17-19. Which comes first, the calamity or the 
steadfastness? Does the psalmist mean, '*We are 
afflicted, and yet we are in afQiction true to God," or 
" We were true to God, and yet are afflicted " ? 
Probably the latter, as in the remainder of this part. 
"The place of jackals" is apparently the field of defeat 
referred to in the second part, where obscene creatures 
would gather to feast on the plundered corpses. The 
Christian consciousness cannot appropriate the psalmist's 
asseverations of innocence, and the difference between 
them and it should not be slurred over. But, on the 
other hand, his words should not be exaggerated into 


charges of injustice against God, nor claims of absolute 
sinlessness. He does feel that present national dis- 
tresses have not the same origin as past ones had had. 
There has been no such falling away as to account for 
them. But he does not arraign God's government. 
He knows why the miseries have come, and that he 
and his fellows are martyrs. He does not fling that 
fact down as an accusation of Providence, but as the 
foundation of a prayer and as a plea for God's help. The 
words may sound daring ; still they are not blasphemy, 
but supplication. 

The fourth part is importunate prayer. Its frank 
anthropomorphisms of a sleeping God, forgetting His 
people, surely need little defence. Sleep withdraws 
from knowledge of and action on the external world, 
and hence is attributed to God, when He allows evils 
to run unchecked. He is said to "awake," or, with 
another figure, to " arise," as if starting from His throned 
calm, when by some great act of judgment He smites 
flourishing evil into nothingness. Injustice is surely 
done to these cries of the Ecclesia pressa when they 
are supposed to be in opposition to the other psalmist's 
word : " He that keepeth Israel slumbers not, nor 
sleeps." Some commentators call these closing petitions 
commonplace ; and so they are. Extreme need and 
agony of supplication have other things to think of 
than originality, and so long as sorrows are so 
commonplace and like each other, the cries of the 
sorrowful will be very much alike. God is pleased 
with well-worn prayers, which have fitted many lips, 
and is not so fastidious as some critics. 


1 My heart seethes [with] goodly speech t 
I speak my work (poem) to a king : 

My tongue is the pen of a swift scribe. 

2 Thou art fair beyond the sons of men ; 
Grace is poured on thy lips : 
Therefore God has blessed thee for ever. 

3 Gird thy sword on thy thigh, O hero, 
Thy splendour and thy majesty. 

4 [And [in] thy majesty] press forward, ride on, 
For the help of truth, and meekness-righteousness ; 
And thy right hand shall teach thee awe-striking deeds» 

5 Thine arrows are keen — 
The peoples fall under thee — 

Into the heart of the enemies of the king. 

6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and aye : 

7 A sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kmgdom. 
Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest iniquity ; 
Therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee 

With the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 

8 Myrrh and aloes [and] cassia [are] all thy robes ; 

Out of palaces of ivory, stringed instruments make thee glad. 

9 Kings' daughters are among thy favourites : 

The consort stands at thy right hand in Ophir gold. 

\ lo Heaken, O daughter, and behold, and incline thine ear ; 
And forget thy people, and thy father's house ; 

1 1 So shall the king desire thy beauty : 

For he is thy lord ; and bow thou down to him. 

12 And the daughter of Tyre [shall come] with a gift; 
The richest among the peoples shall seek thy favour^ 

13 All glorious is the king's daughter in the inner palaces 
Of cloth of gold is her gaiment. 



14 In embroidered robes is she led to the king : 
Maidens behind her, her friends, are brought to theci 

15 They are brought with gladness and exultation: 
They enter into the palace of the king. 

16 Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children : 
Thou wilt make them princes in all the earth. 

17 I will commemorate thy name through generation after generation : 
Therefore shall the peoples praise thee for ever and aye. 

THIS is an epithalamion or ode on a king's 
marriage. The usual bewildering variety of 
conjectures as to his identity meets us in commentaries. 
The older opinion points to Solomon's marriage to an 
Egyptian princess, to which it is objected that he was 
not a warrior king, as the monarch of the psalm is. 
Hitzig regards *' daughter of Tyre," in ver. 12, as a 
vocative, and therefore looks for a king who married a 
Tyrian woman. He is obliged to go to the northern 
kingdom to find one, and pitches on Ahab, because 
Jezebel was the daughter of ** a king of the Zidonians," 
and Ahab had an "ivory house" (l Kings xxii. 39). 
It is hard to believe that that wedded pair of evil 
memory are the originals of the lovely portraits in the 
psalm, or that a psalmist would recognise the kingdom 
of Israel as divinely established and to be eternally 
upheld. Besides, the construction of ver. 1 2, on which 
this theory pivots, is doubtful, and the daughter of 
Tyre there mentioned is more probably one of the 
bringers of gifts to the bride. The attributes of the 
king and the promises for his descendants cannot be 
extended, without incongruity, beyond the Davidic 
line. Hence Delitzsch has selected Jehoram, the son 
of Jehoshaphat, principally because his wife, Athaliah, 
was of Tyrian descent, being Jezebel's daughter, and 
partly because his father had been a trader, which 
accounts for the allusions to gold of Ophir and ivory. 

xlv.] THE PSALMS 65 

These are slender grounds of identification, to say 
nothing of the miserable contrast which Jehoram's 
reign — a dreary record of apostasy and defeat, culmi- 
nating in a tragic death and a dishonoured grave 
(2 Chron. xxi.) — would present to the psalm. Some 
commentators have thought of the marriage of a Persian 
king, mainly because the peculiar word for consort in 
ver. 9 is employed for Persian queens (Neh. ii. 6), and 
also because the Tyrians were tributary to Persia, and 
because the sons of the king are to be "called princes 
in all lands," which reminds us of Persian satraps. 
Ewald finally fixed on Jeroboam II. of Israel. Cheyne 
(" Orig. of Psalt.") finds the king of the psalm in Ptolemy 
Philadelphus, the inspirer, as was believed, of the 
LXX. translation, whom Josephus and Philo extol. 
Its author puts this identification only as " tentative." 
Notwithstanding his anticipatory protest against making 
Philadelphus' moral character an objection, he feels 
that it is an objection ; for he urges that its darker 
shades had not yet disclosed themselves, and confesses 
that "a haze of illusion encompassed our poet," who 
"overrated this Ptolemy, from taking too external a 
view of the Messianic promise, and being flattered by 
a Hellenic king's partiality for his people" {u.s.y 172). 
Philadelphus afterwards married his sister. His hands 
were red with blood. Was a Jewish psalmist likely to 
take " up the singing robes of a court poet " (u.s.) in 
honour of a Ptolemy, or to transfer the promises to the 
Davidic line to, and to speak of God as the God of, a 
foreign king? Or how, if he did, came his song to 
find and keep a place in the Psalter? All these 
conjectures show the hopelessness of identifying the 
person intended addressed in the osalm. It is said 
that a knowledge of the historical allusions in the 

VOL. IL 5 


Psalter is indispensable to enjoying it. They would 
often be helpful if they could be settled, but that is 
no reason for elevating conjecture to the place of 

One reason for the failure of attempts at identification 
is that the language is a world too wide for the best and 
greatest of Jewish kings. Much in the psalm applies 
to a historical occasion, the marriage of some monarch ; 
but there is much that as obviously goes beyond it. 
Either, then, the psalm is hyperbole, outstripping even 
poetical licence, or there appear in it characteristics 
of the ideal monarch whom the psalmist knew to be 
promised to Israel. Every king of Judah by descent 
and office was a living prophecy. The singer sees 
the Messiah shining, as it were, through the shadowy 
form of the earthly king, whose limitations and defects, 
no less than his excellences and glories, pointed onwards 
to a greater than Solomon, in whom the " sure mercies " 
promised to David should be facts at last. 

The psalm has two main divisions, prefaced by a 
prelude (ver. i), and followed by prediction of happy 
issue of the marriage and enduring and wide dominion. 
The two main parts are respectively addressed to the 
royal bridegroom (vv. 2-9) and to the bride (vv. 10-15). 

The singer lays claim to at least poetic inspiration. 
His heart is seething or boiling over with goodly 
words, or perhaps with the joyful matter which 
occasions his song — namely, the royal nuptials. He 
dedicates his "work" (like the original meaning of 
**poem" — a thing made) to "a king," the absence of 
the definite article suggesting that the office is more 
prominent than the person. He sings to a king ; there- 
fore his strains must be lofty. So full is his heart 
that the swift words pour out as the stylus of a rapid 

xlvj THE PSALMS 67 

writer races over the parchment. The previous musing 
has been long, the fire has burned slowly ; but at last 
all is molten, and rushes out, fluent because fervent. 

The picture of the king begins with two features on 
which the old-world ideal of a monarch laid stress — 
personal beauty and gracious speech. This monarch 
is fairer than the sons of men. The note of super- 
human excellence is struck at the outset ; and though 
the surface reference is only to physical beauty, that is 
conceived of as the indication of a fair nature which 
moulds the fair form. 

** For of the soul the body form doth take ; 
For soul is form, and doth the body make.*' 

The highest truth of this opening word is realised 
only in Him of whom it was also said, in apparent 
contradiction, but real harmony with it, "His visage 
was so marred more than any man, and His form more 
than the sons of men." The craving for " whatsoever 
things are lovely," like all other desires, has for its 
object Jesus Christ. Another kingly excellence is sweet 
courtesy of speech. Possibly, indeed, the " grace poured 
on the lips " may mean the gracious smile which moulds 
their curves, but more likely it refers to the kindly 
speech that so well become a mouth that can command. 
The sweetest examples of such words are poor beside 
"the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth." 
The psalmist's ideal is that of a gentle king. Where 
else than in the King whose sceptre was a reed, not an 
iron rod, has it been fulfilled ? 

"Nor know we anything more fair 
Than is the smile upon Thy face.** 

From such characteristics the psalmist draws an 
inference — " therefore God hath blessed thee for ever " ; 


for that "therefore" does not introduce the result of 
the preceding excellences, but the cause of them. The 
psalmist knows that God has blessed the king because 
he sees these beauties. They are the visible signs and 
tokens of the Divine benediction. In its reference to 
Christ, the thought expressed is that His superhuman 
beauty is to all men the proof of a unique operation 
of God. Abiding divinity is witnessed by perfect 
humanity. I 

The scene changes with startling suddenness to the 
fury of battle. In a burst of lyric enthusiasm, forgetting 
for a moment nuptials and wedding marches, the singer 
calls on the king to array himself for war and to rush 
on the foe. Very striking is this combination of gentle- 
ness and warrior strength — a union which has been 
often realised in heroic figures, which is needful for the 
highest type of either, and which is fulfilled in the 
Lamb of God, who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. 
The king is to gird on his sword, and to array himself, 
as in glittering armour, in his splendour and majesty, 
and, thus arrayed, to mount his chariot, or, less pro- 
bably, to bestride his war-horse, and hurl himself on 
the yielding ranks of the enemy. " Press forward, 
drive (or ride) on," crushing obstacles and forcing a 
path. But Israel's king could be no vulgar conqueror, 
impelled by lust of dominion or "glory." His sword 
is to be girt on for the help or " on behalf of truth, 
meekness, and righteousness." These abstracts may 
be used for concretes — namely, the possessors of the 
qualities named. But the limitation is not necessary. 
The monarch's warfare is for the spread of these. The 
Hebrew binds the two latter closely together by an 
anomalous construction, which may be represented by 
connecting the two words with a hyphen. They are 

xlv.] THE PSALMS 69 

regarded as a double star. Then follows a verse of 
hurry : " Thy right hand shall teach thee awe-striking 
deeds." He has no allies. The canvas has no room 
for soldiers. The picture is like the Assyrian sculptures, 
in which the king stands erect and alone in his chariot, 
a giant in comparison with the tiny figures beneath 
him. Like Rameses in Pentaur's great battle-song, 
*' he pierced the line of the foe ; ... he was all alone, 
no other with him." Then follow three abrupt clauses, 
reflecting in their fragmentary character the stress of 
battle : " Thine arrows are sharp — The peoples fall 
under thee — In the heart of the enemies of the king." 
The bright arrow is on the string ; it whizzes ; the 
plain is strewed with prostrate forms, the king's shaft 
in the heart of each. It is no mere fanciful spiritual- 
ising which sees in this picture an adumbration of the 
merciful warfare of Christ all through the ages. We 
get to the kernel of the history of Israel when we 
regard it as the preparation for Christ. We understand 
the raison d'etre of its monarchy when we see in these 
poor shadows the types of the King of men, who was 
to be all that they should have been and were not. 
The world-wide conflict for truth and meekness and 
righteousness is His conflict, and the help which is 
done on earth He doeth it all Himself The psalm 
waits for its completion still, and will wait until the 
day when the marriage supper of the Lamb is preceded 
by the last battle and crowning victory of Him who 
*'in righteousness doth judge and make war." 

All the older versions take ** God," in ver. 6 «, as a 
vocative, while most moderns seek another construction 
or text. "The sum of the matter is that the only 
natural rendering of the received text is that of the 
Versions, * Thy throne, O God ' " (Cheyne, in loc). 


Three renderings have been proposed, all of which are 
harsh. "Thy throne is the throne of God," etc., is 
Ewald's suggestion, revived from a Jewish expositor, 
and adopted widely by many recent commentators, and 
in the margin of the R.V. It is clumsy, and leaves it 
doubtful whether the stress of the assertion lies on the 
Divine appointment or on the eternal duration of the 
throne. " Thy God's throne is," etc., is very question- 
able grammatically, and extremely harsh. The only 
other suggested rendering, " Thy throne is God," etc., 
may fairly be pronounced impossible. If the vocative 
construction is retained, are we shut up to Cheyne's 
further opinion, that " the only natural interpretation 
[is] that of the Targum, ' Thy throne, O Jehovah ' " ? 
If so, we shall be obliged to admit textual corruption ; 
for a reference to the eternal duration of Jehovah's 
dominion is quite out of place here, where the parallel- 
ism of the next clause demands some characteristic of 
the king's throne corresponding to that of his sceptre, 
there stated. But in Exod. xxi. 6, xxii. 8, and Psalm 
Ixxxii. 6, the name God (Elohim) is applied to rulers 
and judges, on the ground, as our Lord puts it, in John 
x. 35, that ** unto them the word of God came " — />., 
that they were theocratic officers. The designation, 
therefore, of the king as Elohim is not contrary to the 
Hebrew line of thought. It does not predicate divinity, 
but Divine preparation for and appointment to office. 
The recurrence of Elohim (God) in its full Divine 
signification in the next verse is felt by many to be 
an insuperable objection to recognising the lower sense 
here. But the emphatic " thy God," which is appended 
to the name in ver. 7, seems expressly intended to 
distinguish between the uses of the word in the two 
verses. August, then, as the title is, it proves nothing 

xlvj THE PSALMS 7" 

as to tte divinity of the person addressed. We recog- 
nise the prophetic character of the psalm, and strongly 
believe that it points onwards to Christ the King. But 
we cannot take the ascription of the title '' O God " as 
having reference to His Divine nature. Such a thought 
lay far beyond the prophetic horizon. The Old 
Testament usage, which is appealed to in order to 
justify the translation of the word '* God " as a vocative, 
must govern its meaning. The careful distinction 
drawn by the expressions of ver. 7, between the lower 
and higher senses of the name, forbid the attempt to 
find here a premature and anomalous statement of deep 
truth, for which the ages were not ripe. While we, 
who know the full truth, may permissibly apply the 
psalmist's words as its expression, we must not forget 
that in so doing we are going beyond their real 
meaning. The controversies waged over the construc- 
tion of this verse have sometimes been embittered by 
the supposition that it was a buttress for the truth 
of Christ's Divine nature. But that is a mistake. 
The psalm goes no further than to declare that the 
king is divinely endowed and appointed. It does out- 
line a character fairer than the sons of men, which 
requires indwelling Deity for its realisation in humanity. 
But it does not speak the decisive word, which alone 
could solve the mystery of its requirement, by pro- 
claiming the fact of incarnation. 

The perpetuity of the king's throne is guaranteed, 
not only by his theocratic appointment by God, but 
by the righteousness of his rule. His sceptre is not 
a rod of iron, but " a sceptre of uprightness." He is 
righteous in character as well as in official acts. He 
" loves righteousness," and therefore cannot but " hate 
iniquity." His broad shield shelters all who love and 


seek after righteousness, and he wars against evil 
wherever it shows itself. Therefore his throne stands 
firm, and is the world's hope. A singer who had 
grasped the truth that power divorced from justice 
could not endure was far in advance of his time. The 
nations have not yet learned his lesson. The vast 
robber-kingdoms which seemed to give the lie to his 
faith have confirmed it by their evanescence. 

The king's love of righteousness leads to his being 
'* anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows." 
This anointing is not that of a coronation, but that of 
a feast. His " fellows " may either be other kings 
or his attendant companions at his marriage. The 
psalmist looks as deep into individual life as he has 
just done into poHtics, and ascribes to righteousness 
lofty powers in that region too. The heart which 
loves it will be joyful, whatever befalls. Conformity 
to the highest ideal known to a man, or, at all events, 
hearty love thereof, leading to efforts after it, is the 
surest foundation for lasting and deep joy. Since 
Christ is the fulfilment of the psalmist's picture, and 
perfectly realised the perfection of manhood, the 
psalmist's words here are most fully applicable to 

True, He was " a man of sorrows," but beneath His 
sorrow had abiding and central joy, which He be- 
queathed to us, with the assurance that to possess it 
would make our joy full. His pure manhood was ever 
in touch with God, and lived in conscious righteousness, 
and therefore there was ever light within, though 
there was darkness around. He, the saddest, was 
likewise the gladdest of men, and " anointed with the 
oil of joy above His fellows." 

In ver. 8 the psalm reaches its main theme — the 

xlv.] THE PSALMS 73 

marriage of the king. The previous verses have 
painted his grace of person, his heroic deeds in battle, 
and his righteous rule. Now he stands ready to pass 
into the palace to meet his bride. His festival robes 
are so redolent of perfumes that they seem to be 
composed of nothing but woven fragrance. There are 
difficulties in the rendering of ver. 8 a, but that adopted 
above is generally accepted as the most probable. 
The clause then describes the burst of jubilant music 
which welcomed and rejoiced the king as he approached 
the " palaces of ivory," where his bride waited his 

Ver. 9 carries the king into his harem. The inferior 
wives are of royal blood, but nearest him and superior 
to these is the queen-consort glittering with golden 
ornaments. This feature of the psalmist's description 
can only have reference to the actual historical occa- 
sion of the psalm, and warns against overlooking that 
in seeking a prophetic reference to the Christ in every 

The second half of the psalm is an address to the 
bride and a description of her beauty and state. The 
singer assumes a fatherly tone, speaking to her as 
" daughter." She is a foreigner by birth, and is called 
upon to give up all her former associations, with 
whole-hearted consecration to her new duties. It is 
difficult to imagine Jezebel or Athaliah as the recipient 
of these counsels, nor does it seem to the present 
writer to add anything to the enjoyment of the psalm 
that the person to whom they were addressed should 
be identified. The exhortation to give up all for 
love's sake goes to the heart of the sacred relation of 
husband and wife, and witnesses to the lofty ideal 
of that relation which prevailed in Israel, even though 


polygamy was not forbidden. The sweet necessity 
of wedded love subordinates all other love, as a deeper 
well, when sunk, draws the surface waters and shallower 
springs into itself. 

"The rich, golden shaft 
Hath killed the flock of all affections else 
That live in her." 

The king sung of in the psalm was a type of Christ. 
Every true marriage is in the same fashion a type 
of the union of the soul with Jesus, the lover of all, 
the bridegroom of humanity. So it is not arbitrary 
spiritualising, but recognition of the nobleness of the 
lower love and of its essential similarity with the 
highest, when the counsel to this bride is regarded as 
shadowing the duties of the soul wedded to Christ. 
If a heart is really influenced by love to Him, that 
love will make self-surrender blessed. A child gladly 
drops toys when it stretches out its little hand for 
better gifts. If we are joined to Jesus, we shall not 
be unwilling to *' count all things but loss for the 
excellency of the knowledge" of Him. Have the 
terms of wedded life changed since this psalm was 
written ? Have the terms of Christian living altered 
since it was said, "Whosoever he be of you that 
forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My dis- 
ciple " ? The law still remains, " Daughter, forget 
thine own people and Thy father's house." The 
exhortation is followed by a promise : *' So shall the 
king desire thy beauty." The application of these 
words to the relations of Christ and His people carries 
with it a striking thought that He is affected by the 
completeness of our self-surrender and dependence. 
He pours love on the unworthy, but that is a different 

xlv.] THE PSALMS 75 

thing from the love with which He responds to such 
abandonment of self and other loves. Holy, noble 
living will bring a smile into His face and draw Him 
nearer to us. 

But whilst there is all this sweet commerce of love 
and giving, the bride is reminded that the king is her 
lord, and is to be reverenced as well as loved. There 
is here, no doubt, the influence of an archaic mode of 
regarding marriage and the wife's position. But it still 
is true that no woman finds all that her heart needs in 
her husband, unless she can bring her reverence where 
she has brought her love ; and that love will not long 
remain if reverence departs. Nor is the warning less 
needed in the higher region of the wedlock of the soul 
with the Saviour. Some types of emotional religion 
have more to say about love than about obedience. 
They are full of half-wholesome apostrophes to a " dear 
Lord," and are apt to forget the last word in the 
emphasis which they put on the first. The beggar- 
maid married to a king was full of reverence as well 
as love ; and the souls whom Jesus stoops to love and 
wash and wed are never to forget to blend adoration 
with approach and obedience with love. 
{ A picture of the reflected honour and influence of 
the bride follows in ver. 12. When she stands by the 
king's side, those around recognise her dignity, and 
seek to secure her favour. Hupfeld, Hitzig, and others 
take " daughter of Tyre " to be a vocative, addressed 
to the bride, who is, according to their view, a Tyrian 
princess) But there is a strong grammatical objection 
to that construction in the copula ('' and ") prefixed to 
'^ daughter," which is never so prefixed to a vocative 
unless preceded by another vocative. Delitzsch, Baeth- 
gen, Perowne, and Cheyne agree in recognising the 


force of that consideration, and the three former regard 
the phrase not as a vocative, but as a nominative. 
It is a personification of the Tyrians according to a 
familiar idiom. The clause is elliptical, and has to 
be supplemented by supposing that the same verb, 
which appears in the next clause in the plural, is to be 
supplied in thought, just as that clause requires the sup- 
plement of *' with a gift " from this one. There appears 
to be some flaw in the text, as the clauses are un- 
symmetrical, and possibly the punctuators have marked 
a hiatus by the sign (Pasek) after the word " daughter 
of Tyre." To " seek thy favour " is literally to " smooth 
thy face " — a graphic representation. In the highest 
region, which we regard the psalm as adumbrating, the 
words have fulfilment. The bride standing by her 
bridegroom, and showing her love and devotion by 
self-abandonment and reverence, will be glorious in the 
eyes of those around. They who manifestly live in 
loving communion with their Lord will be recognised 
for what they are, and, though sometimes hated there- 
for, will also be honoured. When the Church has cast 
all but Christ out of its heart, it will conquer the world. 
** The sons of them that afQicted thee shall come bending 
unto thee." 

In w. 13-15 the bride's apparel and nuptial pro- 
cession are described. She is " all glorious within," — 
by which is not meant, as ordinarily supposed, that she 
possesses an inner beauty of soul, but that the poet 
conceives of her as standing in the inner chamber, 
where she has been arrayed in her splendour. Krochmal, 
followed by Graetz and Cheyne, changes the text so as 
to read corals^ or, as Cheyne renders, pearls (Heb. 
fninim)^ for within {fninah\ and thus preserves unity 
of subject in the verse by removing the local designa- 

xlv.] THE PSALMS 77 

tion. But the existing reading is intelligible. In ver. 14 
the marriage procession is described. The words 
rendered " embroidered robes " are by some taken to 
mean " tapestry of divers colours " (Perowne), or richly 
woven carpets spread for the bride to walk on, and by 
others (Hitzig, Riehm) gay-coloured cushions, to which 
she is led in order to sit beside the bridegroom. But 
the word means apparel elsewhere, and either of the 
other meanings introduces an irrelevant detail of 
another kind into the picture. The analogy of other 
Scripture metaphors leads at once to interpreting the 
bride's attire as symbolic of the purity of character be- 
longing to the Church. The Apocalypse dresses " the 
Lamb's wife " in " fine linen, clean and white." The 
psalm arrays her in garments gleaming with gold, which 
symbolise splendour and glory, and in embroidered 
robes, which suggest the patient use of the slow needle, 
and the variegated harmony of colour attained at last. 
There is no marriage between Christ and the soul, 
unless it is robed in the beauty of righteousness and 
manifold graces of character. In other places we read 
that the bride " made herself ready," and also that " to 
her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, 
clean and white," in which sayings are set forth the 
double sources of such a garment of the soul. It is 
a gift from above. It is " put on " by continual effort, 
based on faith. The picture of the home-coming of the 
bride follows. She is attended by her maidens, and 
with them she passes into the palace amid joys and 
exultation. The psalm stops at the threshold. It is 
not for the singer to draw back the curtains and let 
in the day. " The door was shut." The presence of 
virgin companions waiting on the bride no more inter- 
feres with the application of the psalm to Christ and 


His Church than the similar representation brings 
confusion into our Lord's parable of the Ten Virgins. 
Parables and symbols are elastic, and often duplicate 
their representations of the" same thing; and such is 
the case here. 

The closing verses are addressed, not to the bride, 
but to the king, and can only in a very modified way 
and partially be supposed to pass beyond the Jewish 
monarch and refer to the true King. Hopes that he 
might be blessed with fortunate issue of the marriage 
were quite in place in an epithalamion, and the delicacy 
of the light touch with which this closing note is struck 
is noteworthy, especially in contrast with the tone of 
many famous secular songs of similar import. But 
much straining is needed to extract a spiritual sense 
from the words. Perowne truly says that it is "wiser 
to acknowledge at once the mixed character" of the 
psalm, and he quotes a sagacious saying of Calvin's 
to the effect that it is not necessary that every detail 
should be carefully fitted to Christ. The psalm had a 
historical basis ; and it has also a prophetic meaning, 
because the king of Israel was himself a type, and Jesus 
Christ is the fulfilment of the ideal never realised by 
its successive occupants. Both views of its nature 
must be kept in view in its interpretation ; and it need 
cause no surprise if, at some points, the rind of prose 
fact is, so to speak, thicker than at others, or if certain 
features absolutely refuse to lend themselves to the 
spiritual interpretation. 


1 God is a refuge and stronghold for us, 

A help in troubles most readily to be found. 

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth do change^ 
And the mountains reel into the heart of the sea. 

3 Let its waters roar and foam ; 

Let mountains shake at its pride. Selah. 

[Jehovah of hosts is with us ; 

A high tower for us is Jacob's God.] 

4 [There is] a river — its branches make glad the city of God 
The sanctuary of the tabernacles of the Most High, 

5 God is in her midst ; she shall not be moved : 
God shall help her at the morning dawn. 

6 Nations roared, kingdoms were moved : 
He gave forth His voice, the earth melts. 

7 Jehovah of hosts is with us ; 

A high tower for us is Jacob's God. Selah. 

/ 8 Come, behold the deeds of Jehovah, 

"Who has made desolations in the earth. 
9 Quelling wars to the end of the earth : 

The bow He breaks, and hews the spear in splinters ; 
The chariots He burns in the fire. 

10 " Desist, and know that I am God : 

I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 

1 1 Jehovah of hosts is with us ; 

A high tower for us is Jacob's God. Selah, '\ 

THERE are two events, one or other of which 
probably supplies the historical basis of this 
and the two following psalms. One is Jehoshaphat's 
deliverance from the combined forces of the bordering 
nations (2 Chron. xx.). Delitzsch adopts this as the 
occasion of the psalm. But the other more usually 



accepted reference to the destruction of Sennacherib's 
army is more probable. Psalms xlvi. and xlviii. have 
remarkable parallelisms with Isaiah. The noble con- 
trast of the quiet river which makes glad the city of 
God with a tossing, earth-shaking sea resembles the 
prophet's threatening that the effect of refusing the 
** waters of Shiloah which go softly" would be inun- 
dation by the strong and mighty river, the Assyrian 
power. And the emblem is expanded in the striking 
language of Isa. xxxiii. 21 : "The glorious Lord will be 
unto us a place of broad rivers and streams ; wherein 
shall go no galley with oars." Encircled by the flash- 
ing links of that broad moat, Jerusalem sits secure. 
Again, the central thought of the refrain in the psalm, 
"The Lord of hosts is with us," is closely allied to 
the symbolic name which Isaiah gave as a pledge of 
deliverance, " Immanuel, God with us." 

The structure is simple. The three strophes into 
which the psalm falls set forth substantially the same 
thought, that God's presence is safety and peace, what- 
ever storms may roar. This general theme is exhibited 
in the first strophe (vv. 1-3) in reference to natural 
convulsions ; in the second (vv. 4-7) in reference to 
the rage of hostile kingdoms ; and in the third (vv. 
8-1 1 ) men are summoned to behold a recent example 
of God's delivering might, which establishes the truth 
of the preceding utterances and has occasioned the 
salm. The grand refrain which closes the second and 
third strophes should probably be restored at the end 
of ver. 3. 

In the first strophe the psalmist paints chaos come 
again, by the familiar figures of a changed earth, 
tottering mountains sinking in the raging sea from 
which they rose at creation, and a wild ocea|i with 

xlvi.] THE PSALMS 8i 

thunderous dash appalling the ear and yeasty foam 
terrifying the eye, sweeping in triumphant insolence 
over all the fair earth. It is prosaic to insist on an 
allegorical meaning for the picture. It is rather a 
vivid sketch of utter confusion, dashed in with three or 
four bold strokes, an impossible case supposed in order 
to bring out the unshaken calm of those who have 
God for ark in such a deluge. He is not only a sure 
refuge and stronghold, but one easy of access when 
troubles come. There is little good in a fortress, how- 
ever impregnable, if it is so difficult to reach that 
a fugitive might be slain a hundred times before he 
was safe in it. But this high tower, which no foe can 
scale, can be climbed at a thought, and a wish lifts 
us within its mighty walls. The psalmist speaks a 
deep truth, verified in the spiritual life of all ages, when 
he celebrates the refuge of the devout soul as " most 
readily to be found." 

As the text stands, this strophe is a verse too short, 
and ver. 3 drags if connected with ** will not we fear." 
The restoration of the refrain removes the anomaly in 
the length of the strophe, and enables us to detach 
ver. 3 from the preceding. Its sense is then completed, 
if we regard it as the protasis of a sentence of which 
the refrain is the apodosis, or if, with Cheyne and 
others, we take ver. 3, ** Let its waters roar," etc. — what 
of that ? " Jehovah of hosts is with us." If the strophe 
is thus completed, it conforms to the other two, in each 
of which may be traced a division into two pairs of 
verses. These two verse-pairs of the first strophe 
would then be inverted parallelism, — the former putting 
security in God first, and surrounding trouble second ; 
the latter dealing with the same two subjects, but in 
reversed sequence. 

VOL. II. 6 


The second strophe brings a new picture to view 
with impressive suddenness, which is even more vividly 
dramatic if the refrain is not supplied. Right against 
the vision of confusion comes one of peace. The 
abrupt introduction of " a river " as an isolated noun, 
which dislocates grammatical structure, is almost an 
exclamation. " There is a river " enfeebles the swing 
of the original. We might almost translate, *' Lo I 
a river 1" Jerusalem was unique among historical 
cities in that it had no great river. It had one tiny 
thread of water, of which perhaps the psalmist is 
thinking. But whether there is here the same contrast 
between Siloam's gentle flow and the surging waters 
of hostile powers as Isaiah sets forth in the passage 
already referred to (Isa. viii. 6), the meaning of this 
gladdening stream is the ever-flowing communication 
of God Himself in His grace. The stream is the 
fountain in flow. In the former strophe we hear the 
roar of the troubled waters, and see the firm hills 
toppling into their depths. Now we behold the gentle 
flow of the river, gliding through the city, with music 
in its ripples and sunshine in its flash and refreshment 
in its waters, parting into many arms and yet one 
in diversity, and bringing life and gladness wherever 
it comes. Not with noise nor tumult, but in silent 
communication, God's grace and peace refresh the soul. 
Power is loud, but Omnipotence is silent. The roar 
of all the billows is weak when compared with the quiet 
sliding onwards of that still stream. It has its divisions. 
As in old days each man's bit of garden was irrigated 
by a branch led from the stream, so in endless diver- 
sity, corresponding to the infinite greatness of the 
source and the innumerable variety of men's needs, 
God's grace comes. " All these worketh that one and 

xlvij THE PSALMS 83 

the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally." 
The streams gladden the city of God with the gladness 
of satisfied thirsts, with the gladness which comes from 
the contact of the human spirit with Divine complete- 
ness. So supplied, the city may laugh at besiegers. 
It has unfailing supplies within itself, and the enemy 
may cut off all surface streams, but its "water shall 
be sure." 

Substantially the same thought is next stated in plain 
words : " God is in the midst of her." And therefore 
two things follow. One is unshaken stability, and 
another is help at the right time — " at the turn of the 
morning." " The Lord is in the midst of her " — that is 
a perennial fact. *' The Lord shall help her " — that is 
the "grace for seasonable help." He, not we, deter- 
mines when the night shall thin away its blackness 
into morning twilight. But we may be sure that the 
presence which is the pledge of stability and calm even 
in storm and darkness will flash into energy of help 
at the moment when He wills. The same expression 
is used to mark the time of His looking from the pillar 
of cloud and troubling the Egyptians, and there may 
be an allusion to that standing instance of His help 
here. " It is not for you to know the times and the 
seasons " ; but this we may know — that the Lord of all 
times will always help at the right time ; He will not 
come so quickly as to anticipate our consciousness of 
need, nor delay so long as to let us be irrevocably 
engulfed in the bog. "Jesus loved Martha, and her 
sister, and Lazarus. When He heard therefore that 
he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place 
where He was." Yet He came in time. 

With what vigour the short, crashing clauses of ver. 6 
describe the wrath and turbulence of the nations, and 


the instantaneous dissolving of their strength into weak- 
ness at a word from those awful lips 1 The verse may 
be taken as hypothetical or as historical. In either 
case we see the sequence of events as by a succession 
of lightning flashes. The hurry of the style, marked 
by the omission of connecting particles, reflects the 
swiftness of incident, like Veni^ vidiy vici. The utter- 
ance of God's will conquers all. At the sound of that 
voice stillness and a pause of dread fall on the " roar " 
(same word as in ver. 3) of the nations, like the hush 
in the woods when thunder rolls. He speaks, and all 
meaner sounds cease. " The lion hath roared, who 
shall not fear ? " No material vehicle is needed. To 
every believer in God there is an incomprehensible 
action of the Divine Will on material things ; and no 
explanations bridge the gulf recognised in the psalmist's 
broken utterances, which declare sequence and not mode 
of operation : ** He uttered His voice, the earth melted." 
Again the triumph of the refrain peals forth, with its 
musical accompaniment prolonging the impression. In 
it the psalmist gives voice, for himself and his fellows, 
to their making their own of the general truths which 
the psalm has been declaring. The two names of God 
set forth a twofold ground for confidence. " Jehovah of 
hosts " is all the more emphatic here since the Second 
Book of the Psalter is usually Elohistic. It proclaims 
God's eternal, self-existent Being, and His covenant 
relation, as well as His absolute authority over the 
ranked forces of the universe, personal or impersonal, 
spiritual or material. The Lord of all these legions 
is with us. When we say "The God of Jacob," we 
reach back into the past and lay hold of the Helper of 
the men of old as ours. What He has been, He is ; 
what He did, He is doing still. The river is full to-day, 

xlvi] THE PSALMS 85 

though the van of the army did long ago drink and 
were satisfied. The bright waters are still as pellucid 
and abundant as then, and the last of the rear-guard 
will find them the same. 

iThe third strophe summons to contemplate with 
fixed attention the " desolations " made by some great 
manifestation of God's delivering power. It is pre- 
supposed that these are still visible. Broken bows, 
splintered spears, half-charred chariots, strew the 
ground, and Israel can go forth without fear and feast 
their eyes on these tokens of what God has done for 
them. The language is naturally applied to the relics 
of Sennacherib's annihilated force. In any case it 
points to a recent act of God's, the glad surprise ot 
which palpitates all through the psalm. The field ot 
history is littered with broken, abandoned weapons, 
once flourished in hands long since turned to dust ; and 
the city and throne of God against which they were 
lifted remain unharmed. The voice which melted the 
earth speaks at the close of the psalm ; not now with 
destructive energy, but in warning, through which 
tones of tenderness can be caught. God desires that 
foes would cease their vain strife before it proves 
fatal.^ " Desist " is here an elliptical expression, ot 
which the full form is ** Let your hands drop " ; or, as 
we say, " Ground your weapons," and learn how vain 
is a contest with Him who is God, and whose fixed 
purpose is that all nations shall know and exalt Him. 
The prospect hinted at in the last words, of a world 
submissive to its King, softens the terrors of His 
destructive manifestations, reveals their inmost purpose, 
and opens to foes the possibility of passing, not as 
conquerors, but as subjects, and therefore fellow-citizens, 
through the gate into the city. 


J I All ye peoples, clap [your] hands ; 
Shout to God with joyful cry. 

2 For Jehovah is most High [and] dread* 
A great King over all the earth. 

3 He subdues peoples under us, 
And nations under our feet, 

4 He chooses for us our inheritance, 

The pride of Jacob whom He loved. Selah. j 

5 God is gone up with a shout, 
Jehovah with trumpet clang. 

6 Sing with the harp to God, sing with the haip: 
Sing with the harp to our King, sing with the harp^ 

7 For King of all the earth is God : 
Sing with the harp a skilful song. 

8 God has become King over the nations: 
He has taken His seat on His holy throne. 

9 The princes of the peoples gather themselves together 
[As] a people of the God of Abraham : 

For to God belong the shields of the earth; 
Greatly has He exalted Himself. 

THE closing thought of Psalm xlvi. is nobly 
expanded in this jubilant summons to all nations 
to praise Jehovah as their King. Both psalms have a 
similar, and probably the same, historical basis : a Divine 
act so recent that the tumult of triumph has not yet 
subsided, and the waves of joy still run high. Only 
in Psalm xlvi. the effect of that God-wrought deliverance 
is principally regarded as the security and peace of 
Israel, and in this psalm as the drawing of the nations 


xlvii.] THE PSALMS 87 

to obey Israel's King, and so to join the chorus of 
Israel's praise. While the psalm has many resem- 
blances to the Songs of the King (Psalm xciii. seqq.\ 
it is clearly in its right place here, as forming with the 
preceding and succeeding psalms a trilogy, occasioned 
by one great manifestation of God's care for the nation. 
No event is more appropriate than the usually accepted 
destruction of Sennacherib's army. The psalm has 
little of complexity in structure or thought. It is a 
gush of pure rapture. It rises to prophetic foresight, 
and, by reason of a comparatively small historical 
occasion, has a vision of the world-wide expansion of 
the kingdom of God. It falls into two strophes of four 
verses each, with one longer verse appended to the 

\ln the first strophe the nations are invited to welcome 
God as their King, not only because of His Divine 
exaltation and world-wide dominion, but also because 
of His deeds for "Jacob." The same Divine act which 
in Psalm xlvi. is represented as quelling wars and 
melting the earth, and in Psalm xlviii. as bringing 
dismay, pain, and flight, is here contemplated as attract- 
ing the nations to worship. The psalmist knows that 
destructive providences have their gracious aspect, and 
that God's true victory over men is not won when 
opposition is crushed and hearts made to quake, but 
when recognition of His sway and joy in it swell the 
heart.j The quick clatter of clapping hands in sign of 
homage to the King (2 Kings xi. 12) blends with the 
shrill cries with which Easterns express joy, in "a 
tumult of acclaim." Hupfeld thinks that to suppose 
the heathen called upon to do homage because of the 
victory for Israel won over them is entirely mistaken. 
But unless that victory is the reason for the summons, 


the psalm offers none ; and it is surely not difficult to 
suppose that the exhibition of God's power leads to 
reflection which issues in recognition of His sovereignty. 
Vv. 3, 4, seem to state the grounds for the summons 
in ver. i. The tenses in these verses present a diffi- 
culty in the way of taking them for a historical retro- 
spect of the conquest and partition of Canaan, which but 
for that objection would be the natural interpretation. 
It is possible to take them as " a truth of experience 
inferred from what had just been witnessed, the his- 
torical fact being expressed not in historical form, but 
generalised and idealised " (Delitzsch, in loc). The 
just accomplished deliverance repeated in essence the 
wonders of the first entrance on possession of the land, 
and revealed the continuous working of the same Divine 
hand, ever renewing the choice of Jacob's inheritance, 
and ever scattering its enemies. " The pride of Jacob " 
is a phrase in apposition with " our inheritance." The 
Holy Land was the object of ** pride" to "Jacob," not 
in an evil sense but in that he boasted of it as a 
precious treasure intrusted to him by God. The root 
fact of all God's ancient and continued blessings is that 
He "loved." His own heart, not Jacob's deserts, 
prompted His mercies. 

The second strophe is distinguished from the first by 
the increased fervour of its calls to praise, by its still 
more exultant rush, and by its omission of reference 
to Jacob. It is wholly concerned with the peoples 
whom it invites to take up the song. As in the former 
strophe the singer showed to the peoples God working 
in the world, here he bids them look up and see Him 
ascending on high. " Now that He ascended, what is 
it but that He also descended first ? " The mighty 
dehverance of which the triumph throbs through this 

xlvii.] THE PSALMS 89 

trilogy of paeans of victory was God's coming down. 
Now He has gone back to His throne and seated Him- 
self thereon, not as having ceased to work in the world — 
for He is still King over it all — but as having completed 
a delivering work. He does not withdraw when He goes 
up. He does not cease to work here below when He 
sits throned in His palace-temple above. The " shout " 
and " voice of a trumpet/' which accompany that ascent, 
are borrowed from the ordinary attendants on a 
triumphal procession. He soars as in a chariot of 
praises, — from whose lips the psalm does not say, 
but probably it intends Israel to be understood as the 
singer. To that choir the nations are called to join 
their voices and harps, since God is their King too, and 
not Jacob's only. The word rendered in the A.V. and 
R.V. (text) "with understanding" is a noun, the name 
of a description of psalm, which occurs in several psalm 
titles, and is best understood as "a skilful song." 
Ver. 8 gathers up the reasons for the peoples' homage 
to God. He has " become King " over them by His 
recent act, having manifested and established His 
dominion ; and He has now "sat down on His throne," 
as having accomplished His purpose, and as thence 
administering the world's affairs. 

A final verse, of double the length of the others, 
stands somewhat apart from the preceding strophe 
both in rhythm and in thought. It crowns the whole. 
The invitations to the nations are conceived of as 
having been welcomed and obeyed. And there rises 
before the poet's eye a fair picture of a great convoca- 
tion, such as might wait before a world-ruling monarch's 
throne on the day of his coronation. The princes of the 
nations, like tributary kings, come flocking to do homage, 
" as if they surely knew their sovereign Lord was by." 


The obliteration of distinction between Israel and 
the nations, by the incorporation of the latter, so that 
"the peoples" become part of the "people of the 
God of Abraham,'* floats before the singer's prophetic 
eye, as the end of God's great manifestation of Himself. 
The two parts of that double choir, which the preceding 
strophes summon to song, coalesce at last, and in 
grand unison send up one full-throated, universal 
melodious shout of praise. " The shields of the earth " 
are best understood as a figurative expression for the 
princes just spoken of, who now at last recognise to 
whom they belong. Thus God has exalted Himself by 
His deeds ; and the result of these deeds is that He is 
greatly exalted by the praise of a world, in which Israel 
and the " peoples " dwell as one beneath His sceptre 
and celebrate His name. 

The psalmist looked far ahead. His immediate 
experience was as " a little window through which he 
saw great matters." The prophecy of the universal 
spread of God's kingdom and the inclusion in it of the 
Gentiles is Messianic ; and whether the singer knew 
that he spoke of a fair hope which should not be a fact 
for weary centuries, or anticipated wider and permanent 
results from that triumph which inspired his song, he 
spake of the Christ, and his strains are true prophecies 
of His dominion. There is no intentional reference in 
the psalm to the Ascension ; but the thoughts under- 
lying its picture of God's going up with a shout are the 
same which that Ascension sets forth as facts, — the 
merciful coming down into humanity of the Divine 
Helper ; the completeness of His victory as attested by 
His return thither where He was before ; His session 
in heaven, not as idle nor wearied, but as having done 
what He meant to do ; His continuous working as King 

xlvii.] THE PSALMS, 91 

in the world ; and the widening recognition of His 
authority by loving hearts. The psalmist summons us 
all to swell with our voices that great chorus of praise 
which, like a sea, rolls and breaks in music round His 
royal seat 


1 Great is Jehovah, and much to be praised, 
In the city of our God, His holy mountain. 

2 Lovely in loftiness, a joy of all the earth, 

Is Mount Zion, the recesses of the north, the city of the 
great King. 

3 God in her palaces 

Has made Himself known as a high tower, 

4 For, lo, the kings assembled themselves, 
They marched onwards together. 

5 They saw, then they were amazed ; 
They were terror-struck, they fled, 

6 Trembling seized them there ; 
Pain, as [of] a woman in travail. 

7 With an east wind 

Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish. 

8 According as we have heard, so have we seen 

In the city of Jehovah of hosts, in the city of our God 8 
God will establish her for ever. Selah. 

5l^We have thought, O God, of Thy loving-kindnesa 
In the midst of Thy Temple. 

10 According to Thy name, O God, 

So is Thy praise to the ends of the earths 
Thy right hand is full of righteousness. 

11 Let Mount Zion rejoice, 

Let the daughters of Judah exult, 
Because of Thy judgments. 

12 Compass Zion, and walk round her} 
Reckon her towers. 


xlvui.] THE PSALMS 93 

13 Give heed to her bulwark, 
Pass through her palaces ; 

That ye may tell it to the generation after* 

14 That such is God, our God : 

For ever and aye He will guide us. 
Al-Muth. ^ 

THE situation seems the same as in Psalm xlvi., 
with which this psalm has many points of contact. 
In both we have the same triumph, the same proud 
affection for the holy city and sanctuary, the same 
confidence in God's dwelling there, the same vivid 
picturing of the mustering of enemies and their rapid 
dispersion, the same swift movement of style in describ- 
ing that overthrow, the same thought of the diffusion 
of God's praise in the world as its consequence, the 
same closing summons to look upon the tokens of 
deliverance, with the difference that, in the former 
psalm, these are the shattered weapons of the defeated 
foe, and in this the unharmed battlements and palaces 
of the delivered city. The emphatic word of the refrain 
in Psalm xlvi. also reappears here in ver. 3. The 
psalm falls into three parts, of which the first (vv. i, 2) 
is introductory, celebrating the glory of Zion as the 
city of God ; the second (vv. 3-8) recounts in glowing 
words the deliverance of Zion ; and the third tells of 
the consequent praise and trust of the inhabitants of 
Zion (w. 9-14). 

The general sense of the first part is plain, but ver. 2 
is difficult. " Mount Zion " is obviously subject, and 
"lovely in loftiness" and *'joy of all the earth" pre- 
dicates ; but the grammatical connection of the two last 
clauses is obscure. Further, the meaning of " the 
sides of the north " has not been satisfactorily ascer- 
tained. The supposition that there is an allusion in 


the phrase to the mythological mountain of the gods, 
with which Zion is compared, is surely most unnatural. 
Would a Hebrew psalmist be likely to introduce such 
a parallel, even in order to assert the superiority of 
Zion ? Nor is the grammatical objection to the supposi- 
tion less serious. It requires a good deal of stretching 
and inserting to twist the two words " the sides of the 
north " into a comparison. It is more probable that 
the clause is topographical, describing some part of 
the city, but what part is far from clear. The accents 
make all the verse after " earth " the subject of the two 
preceding predicates, and place a minor division at 
"north," implying that " the sides of the north" is 
more closely connected with " Mount Zion " than with 
the " city of the great King," or than that last clause is. 
Following these indications, Stier renders '* Mount 
Zion [and] the northern side {i.e.^ the lower city, on 
the north of Zion), which together make the city," etc. 
Others see here " the Holy City regarded from three 
points of view " — viz., " the Mount Zion " (the city of 
David), " the sides of the north " (Mount Moriah and 
the Temple), " the city of the great King " (Jerusalem 
proper). So, Perowne and others. Delitzsch takes 
Zion to be the Temple hill, and " the sides of the north " 
to be in apposition. " The Temple hill, or Zion, in the 
narrower sense, actually formed the north-eastern corner 
of ancient Jerusalem," says he, and thus regards the 
subject of the whole sentence as really twofold, not 
threefold, as appears at first — Zion on the north, which 
is the palace-temple, and Jerusalem at its feet, which 
is " the city of the great King." But it must be admitted 
that no interpretation runs quite smoothly, though the 
summary ejection of the troublesome words "the sides 
of the north " from the text is too violent a remedy. 

xlviii.] THE PSALMS 95 

But the main thought of this first part is independent 
of such minute difficulties. It is that the one thing 
which made Zion-Jerusalem glorious was God*s pre- 
sence in it. It was beautiful in its elevation ; it was 
safely isolated from invaders by precipitous ravines, 
inclosing the angle of the plateau on which it stood. 
But it was because God dwelt there and manifested 
Himself there that it was "a joy for all the earth." 
The name by which even the earthly Zion is called 
is " Jehovah-Shammah, The Lord is there." We are 
not forcing New Testament ideas into Old Testament 
words when we see in the psalm an eternal truth. 
An idea is one thing ; the fact which more or less 
perfectly embodies it is another. The idea of God's 
dwelling with men had its less perfect embodiment in 
the presence of the Shechinah in the Temple, its more 
perfect in the dwelling of God in the Church, and will 
have its complete when the city " having the glory of 
God" shall appear, and He will dwell with men and 
be their God. God in her, not anything of her own, 
makes Zion lovely and gladdening. " Thy beauty was 
perfect through My comeliness which I had put upon 
thee, saith the Lord." 

The second part pictures Zion's deliverance with 
picturesque vigour (vv. 3-8). Ver. 3 sums up the 
whole as the act of God, by which He has made Him- 
self known as that which the refrain of Psalm xlvi. 
declared Him to be — a refuge, or, literally, a high 
tower. Then follows the muster of the hosts. "The 
kings were assembled." That phrase need not be 
called exaggeration, nor throw doubt on the reference 
to Sennacherib's army, if we remember the policy of 
Eastern conquerors in raising their armies from their 
conquests, and the boast which Isaiah puts into the 


mouth of the Assyrian : '* Are not my princes altogether 
kings ? " They advance against the city. " They saw," 
— no need to say what. Immediately they " were 
amazed." The sight of the city broke on them from 
some hill-crest on their march. Basilisk-like, its 
beauty was paralysing, and shot a nameless awe into 
their hearts. ** They were terror-struck ; they fled." As 
in Psalm xlvi. 6, the clauses, piled up without cement 
of connecting particles, convey an impression of hurry, 
culminating in the rush of panic-struck fugitives. As 
has been often noticed, they recall Caesar's Veni^ vidi^ 
vici] but these kings came, saw, were conquered. No 
cause for the rout is named. No weapons were drawn 
in the city. An unseen hand " smites once, and smites 
no more " ; for once is enough. The process of de- 
liverance is not told ; for a hymn of victory is not a 
chronicle. One image explains it all, and signalises the 
Divine breath as the sole agent. " Thou breakest the 
ships of Tarshish with an east wind " is not history, 
but metaphor. The unwieldy, huge vessel, however 
strong for fight, is unfit for storms, and, caught in a 
gale, rolls heavily in the trough of the sea, and is 
driven on a lee shore and ground to pieces on its 
rocks. ** God blew upon them, and they were scattered," 
as the medal struck on the defeat of the Armada had 
it. In the companion psalm God's uttered voice did 
all. Here the breath of the tempest, which is the 
breath of His lips, is the sole agent. 

The past, of which the nation had heard from its 
fathers, lives again in their own history ; and that 
verification of traditional belief by experience is to 
a devout soul the chief blessing of its dehverances. 
There is rapture in the thought that "As we have 
heard, so have we seen." The present ever seems 

xlviii.] THE PSALMS 97 

commonplace. The sky is farthest from earth right 
overhead, but touches the ground on the horizon behind 
and before. Miracles were in the past; God will be 
manifestly in the far-off future, but the present is apt 
to seem empty of Him. But if we rightly mark His 
dealings with us, we shall learn that nothing in His 
past has so passed that it is not present. As the 
companion psalm says, " The God of Jacob is our 
refuge," this exclaims, " As we have heard, so have we 

But not only does the deliverance link the present 
with the past, but it flings a steady light into the 
future. **God shall establish her forever." The city 
is truly "the eternal city," because God dwells in it. 
The psalmist was thinking of the duration of the actual 
Jerusalem, the imperfect embodiment of a great idea. 
But whatever may be its fate, the heart of his confi- 
dence is no false vision ; for God's city will outlast the 
world. Like the '* maiden fortresses," of which there 
is one in almost every land, fondly believed never to 
have been taken by enemies, that city is inexpugnable, 
and the confident answer to every threatening assailant 
is, "The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised 
thee, and laughed thee to scorn ; the daughter of 
Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee." "God will 
establish her for ever." The pledges of that stability 
are the deliverances of the past and present. 

(The third part (w. 9-14) deals with the praise and 
trust of the inhabitants of Zion. Deliverance leads to 
thankful meditation on the loving-kindness which it so 
signally displayed, and the ransomed people first gathe 
in the Temple, which was the scene of God's manifesta- 
tion of His grace, and therefore is the fitting place for 
them to ponder it. The world-wide consequences of the 
VOL. II. 7 


great act of loving-kindness almost shut out of sight 
for the moment its bearing on the worshippers. It is a 
lofty height to which the song climbs, when it regards 
national deliverance chiefly as an occasion for wider 
diffusion of God's praise. His " name " is the mani- 
festation of His character in act. The psalmist is sure 
that wherever that character is declared praise will 
follow, because he is'sure that that character is perfectly 
and purely good, and that God cannot act but in such 
a way as to magnify Himself, j That great sea will cast 
up nothing but pearls. The words carry also a lesson 
for recipients of Divine loving-kindness, teaching them 
that they misapprehend the purpose of their blessings, 
if they confine these to their own well-being and lose 
sight of the higher object — that men may learn to know 
and love Him. But the deliverance not only produces 
grateful meditation and widespread praise ; it sets the 
mother city and her daughter villages astir, like Miriam 
and her maidens, with timbrel and dance, and ringing 
songs which celebrate ** Thy judgments," terrible as 
they were. That dead host was an awful sight, and 
hymns of praise seem heartless for its dirge. But it 
is not savage glee nor fierce hatred which underlies 
the psalmist's summons, and still less is it selfish joy. 
" Thy judgments " are to be hymned when they smite 
some giant evil ; and when systems and their upholders 
that array themselves against God are drowned in some 
Red Sea, it is fitting that on its banks should echo, 
** Sing ye to Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously." 
The close of this part may be slightly separated from 
w. 9-1 1. The citizens who have been cooped up by 
the siege are bidden to come forth, and, free from 
fear, to compass the city without, and pass between its 
palaces within, and so see how untouched they are. 

xlviii.] THE PSALMS 99 

The towers and bulwark or rampart remain unharmed, 
with not a stone smitten from its place. Within, the 
palaces stand without a trace of damage to their beauty. 
Whatever perishes in any assaults, that which is of God 
will abide ; and, after all musterings of the enemy, 
the uncaptured walls will rise in undiminished strength, 
and the fair palaces which they guard glitter in un- 
tarnished splendour. And this complete exemption 
from harm is to be told to the generation following, 
that they may learn what a God this God is, and how 
safely and well He will guide all generations. 

The last word in the Hebrew text, which the A.V. and 
R.V. render " even unto death," can scarcely have that 
meaning. Many attempts have been made to find a 
signification appropriate to the close of such a triumphal 
hymn as this, but the simplest and most probable course 
is to regard the words as a musical note, which is either 
attached abnormally to the close of the psalm, or has 
strayed hither from the superscription of Psalm xlix. 
It is found in the superscription of Psalm ix. 
("Al-Muth") as a musical direction, and has in all 
likelihood the same meaning here. If it is removed, 
the psalm ends abruptly, but a slight transposition of 
words and change of the main division of the verse 
remove that difficulty by bringing " for ever and aye " 
from the first half The change improves both halves, 
laying the stress of the first exclusively on the thought 
that this God is such a God (or, by another rendering, 
"is here,"«>., in the city), without bringing in reference 
to the eternity of His protection, and completing the 
second half worthily, with the thought of His eternal 
guidance of the people among whom He dwells. 


1 Hear this, all ye peoples ; 

Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world : 

2 Both low-born and high-born, 
Rich and poor together. 

3 My mouth shall speak wisdom ; 

And the meditation of my heart shall utter understanding 

4 I will bend my ear to a parable : 

I will open my riddle on the harp. 

(^ 5 Why should I fear in the days of evil. 

When the malice of my pursuers surrounds me^ 

6 [Even of] those who rely on their riches, 
And boast of their wealth ? 

7 No man can at all redeem a brother ; 
He cannot give to God a ransom for him 

8 (Yea, too costly is the redemption price of their sou^ 
And he must leave it alone for ever) : 

9 That he may continue living on for ever, 
And may not see the pit. 

10 Nay, he must see that the wise die, 
The fool and the brutish perish alike^ 
And leave to others their riches. 

1 1 Their inward thought [is that] their houses [shall last] for ever. 
Their dwellings to generation after generation ; 

They call their lands by their own names. 

12 But man [being] in honour abides not : 

He becomes like the beasts [that] are brought to silence.) 

13 This is the lot of them to whom presumptuous confidence belongs: 
And after them men approve their sayings. Selah. 

14 Like sheep they are folded in Sheol ; 
Death shepherds them : 

And the upright shall rule over them in the morning; 
And their form shall be wasted away by Sheol, 
So that it is without a dwelling. 


xlix.] THE PSALMS loi 

15 Surely God shall redeem my soul from the power of Sheol : 
For He shall take me. Selah. 

16 Fear not thou when a man becomes rich, 
When the glory of his house increases : 

17 For when he dies he will not take away any [of it]; 
His glory shall not go down after him. 

18 Though in his lifetime he bless his soul 

(And [men] praise thee when thou doest well for thyself) 

19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers ; 
For evermore they see not light. 

20 Man [who is] in honour, and has not understanding, 
Becomes like the beasts that are brought to silence. 

THIS psalm touches the high-water mark of Old 
Testament faith in a future life ; and in that 
respect, as well as in its application of that faith to 
alleviate the mystery of present inequalities and non- 
correspondence of desert with condition, is closely 
related to the noble Psalm Ixxiii., with which it has 
also several verbal identities. Both have the same 
problem before them — to construct a theodicy, or " to 
vindicate the ways of God to man " — and both solve 
it in the same fashion. Both appear to refer to the 
story of Enoch in their remarkable expression for 
ultimate reception into the Divine presence. But 
whether the psalms are contemporaneous cannot be 
determined from these data. Cheyne regards the 
treatment of the theme in Psalm Ixxiii. as " more skil- 
ful," and therefore presumably later than Psalm xlix., 
which he would place "somewhat before the close of 
the Persian period." This date rests on the assump- 
tion that the amount of certitude as to a future life 
expressed in the psalm was not realised in Israel till 
after the exile. 

After a solemn summons to all the world to hear 
the psalmist's utterance of what he has learned by 
Divine teaching (w. i--^), the psalm is divided into 


two parts, each closed with a refrain. The former 
of these (vv. 5-12) contrasts the arrogant security 
of the prosperous godless with the end that awaits 
them; while the second (vv. 13-20) contrasts the 
dreary lot of these victims of vain self-confidence 
with the blessed reception after death into God's own 
presence which the psalmist grasped as a certainty 
for himself, and thereon bases an exhortation to 
possess souls in patience while the godless prosper, 
and to be sure that their lofty structures will topple 
into hideous ruin. 

The psalmist's consciousness that he speaks by 
Divine inspiration, and that his message imports all 
men, is grandly expressed in his introductory sum- 
mons. The very name which he gives to the world 
suggests the latter thought; for it means — the worlc 
considered as fleeting. Since we dwell in so transi* 
tory an abode, it becomes us to listen to the deep 
truths of the psalm. These have a message for high 
and low, for rich and poor. They are like a keen 
lancet to let out too great fulness of blood from the 
former, and to teach moderation, lowliness, and care 
for the Unseen. They are a calming draught for the 
latter, soothing when perplexed or harmed by " the 
proud man's contumely." But the psalmist calls for 
universal attention, not only because his lessons fit all 
classes, but because they are in themselves " wisdom," 
and because he himself had first bent his ear to receive 
them before he strung his lyre to utter them. The 
brother-psalmist, in Psalm Ixxiii., presents himself as 
struggling with doubt and painfully groping his way to 
his conclusion. This psalmist presents himself as a 
divinely inspired teacher, who has received into purged 
and attentive ears, in many a whisper from God, and 

xlix.] THE PSALMS 103 

as the result of many an hour of silent waiting, the 
word which he would now proclaim on the housetops. 
The discipline of the teacher of religious truth is the 
same at all times. There must be the bent ear before 
there is the message which men will recognise as 
important and true. 

There is no parable in the ordinary sense in the 
psalm. The word seems to have acquired the wider 
meaning of a weighty didactic utterance, as in Psalm 
Ixxviii. 2. The expression " Open my riddle " is 
ambiguous, and is by some understood to mean the 
proposal and by others the solution of the puzzle ; but 
the phrase is more naturally understood of solving than 
of setting a riddle, and if so, the disproportion between 
the characters and fortunes of good and bad is the 
mystery or riddle, and the psalm is its solution. 

The main theme of the first part is the certainty of 
death, which makes infinitely ludicrous the rich man's 
arrogance. It is one version of 

"There is no armour against Fate; 
Death lays his icy hand on kings,* 

Therefore how vain the boasting in wealth, when all its 
heaps cannot buy a day of life I This familiar thought 
is not all the psalmist's contribution to the solution of 
the mystery of life's unequal partition of worldly good ; 
but it prepares the way for it, and it lays a foundation 
for his refusal to be afraid, however pressed by insolent 
enemies. Very significantly he sets the conclusion, to 
which observation of the transiency of human pro- 
sperity has led him, at the beginning of his *' parable." 
In the parallel psalm (Ixxiii.) the singer shows himself 
struggling from the depths of perplexity up to the 
sunny heights of faith. But here the poet begins with 


the clear utterance of trustful courage, and then vindi- 
cates it by the thought of the impotence of wealth to 
avert d( ath. 

The hostility to himself of the self-confident rich 
boasters appears only for a moment at first. It is 
described by a gnarled, energetic phrase which has 
been diversely understood. But it seems clear that 
the "iniquity" (A.V. and R.V.) spoken of in ver. 5 b 
is not the psalmist's sin, for a reference here to his 
guilt or to retribution would be quite irrelevant; and 
if it were the consequences of his own evil that dogged 
him at his heels, he had every reason to fear, and con- 
fidence would be insolent defiance. But the word 
rendered in the A.V. heels^ which is retained in the 
R.V. with a change in construction, may be a par- 
ticipial noun, derived from a verb meaning to trip up 
or supplant ; and this gives a natural coherence to the 
whole verse, and connects it with the following one. 
" Pursuers " is a weak equivalent for the literal ** those 
who would supplant me," but conveys the meaning, 
though in a somewhat enfeebled condition. Ver. 6 is 
a continuance of the description of the supplanters. 
They are " men of this world," the same type of man 
as excites stern disapproval in many psalms : as, for 
instance, in xvii. 14 — a psalm which is closely related 
to this, both in its portrait of the godless and its lofty 
hope for the future. It is to be noted that they are 
not described as vicious or God-denying or defying. 
They are simply absorbed in the material, and believe 
that land and money are the real, solid goods. They 
are the same men as Jesus meant when He said that 
it was hard for those who trusted in riches to enter into 
the kingdom of heaven. It has been thought that the 
existence of such a rlass points to a late date for the 

xlix.] THE PSALMS 105 

psalm ; but the reliance on riches does not require large 
riches to rely on, and may flourish in full perniciousness 
in very primitive social conditions. A small elevation 
suffices to lift a man high enough above his fellows to 
make a weak head giddy. Those to whom material 
possessions are the only good have a natural enmity 
towards those who find their wealth in truth and good- 
ness. The poet, the thinker, and, most of all, the 
religious man, are targets for more or less active 
" malice," or, at all events, are recognised as belonging 
to another class, and regarded as singular and *' un- 
practical," if nothing worse. But the psalmist looks far 
enough ahead to see the end of all the boasting, and 
points to the great instance of the impotence of material 
good — its powerlessness to prolong life. It would 
be more natural to find in ver. 7 the statement that 
the rich man cannot prolong his own days than that 
he cannot do so for a ''brother." A very slight change 
in the text would make the initial word of the verse 
("brother") the particle of asseveration, which occurs in 
ver. 15 (the direct antithesis of this verse), and is charac- 
teristic of the parallel Psalm Ixxiii. With that reading 
(Ewald, Cheyne, Baethgen, etc.) other slight difficulties 
are smoothed ; but the present text is attested by the 
LXX. and other early versions, and is capable of defence. 
It may be necessary to observe that there is no refer- 
ence here to any other " redemption " than that of the 
body from physical death. There is a distinct inten- 
tion to contrast the man's limited power with God's, for 
ver. 15 points back to this verse, and declares that 
God can do what man cannot. Ver. 8 must be taken 
as a parenthesis, and the construction carried on from 
ver. 7 to ver. 9, which specifies the purpose of the 
ransom, if it were possible. No man can secure for 


another continuous life or an escape from the necessity 
of seeing the pit — i.e.y going down to the depths of 
death. It would cost more than all the rich man's 
store ; wherefore he — the would-be ransomer — must 
abandon the attempt for ever. 

The "see" in ver. lO is taken by many to have the 
same object as the ** see " in ver. 9. *' Yea, he shall 
see it." (So Hupfeld, Hitzig, Perowne, and others.) 
" The wise die " will then begin a new sentence. But 
the repetition is feeble, and breaks up the structure 
of ver. 10 undesirably. The fact stares the rich man 
in the face that no difference of position or of character 
affects the necessity of death. Down into that insatiable 
maw of Sheol (" the ever-asking " ?) beauty, wisdom, 
wealth, folly, and animalism go alike, and it still gapes 
wide for fresh food. But a strange hallucination in the 
teeth of all experience is cherished in the " inward 
thought " of " the men of this world " — namely, that their 
houses shall continue for ever. Like the godless man 
in Psalm x., this rich man has reached a height of 
false security, which cannot be put into words without 
exposing its absurdity, but which yet haunts his inmost 
thoughts. The fond imagination of perpetuity is not 
driven out by the plain facts of life and death. He 
acts on the presumption of permanence ; and he whose 
working hypothesis is that he is to abide always as his 
permanent home in his sumptuous palace, is rightly set 
down as believing in the incredible belief that the 
common lot will not be his. A man's real belief is that 
which moulds his life, though he has never formulated 
it in words. This " inward thought " either underlies 
the rich godless man's career^ or that career is inex- 
plicable. There is an emphatic contrast drawn between 
what he " sees " and what he, all the while, hugs in his 

xlixj THE PSALMS 107 

secret heart. That contrast is lost if the emendation 
found in the LXX. and adopted by many modern com- 
mentators is accepted, according to which, by the trans- 
position of a letter, we get *' their grave " instead of" their 
inward [thought]." A reference to the grave comes too 
early ; and if the sense of ver. 1 1 a is that " their grave 
(or, the graves) are their houses for ever," there is no 
parallelism between ver. \\ a and c. The delusion of 
t'ontinuance is, on the other hand, naturally connected 
with the proud attempt to make their names immortal 
by impressing them on their estates. The language of 
ver. 1 1 c is somewhat ambiguous ; but, on the whole, the 
rendering " they call their lands by their own names " 
accords best with the context. 

Then comes with a crash the stern refrain which 
pulverises all this insanity of arrogance. The highest 
distinction among men gives no exemption from the 
grim law which holds all corporeal life in its gripe. 
The psalmist does not look, and probably did not see, 
beyond the external fact of death. He knows nothing 
of a future for the men whose portion is in this life. 
As we shall see in the second part of the psalm, the 
confidence in immortahty is for him a deduction from 
the fact of communion with God here, and, apparently, 
«s bent ear had received no whisper as to any distinc- 
iHpn between the godless man and the beast in the 
regard to their deaths. They are alike " brought to 
silence." The awful dumbness of the dead strikes 
on his heart and imagination as most pathetic. " That 
skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once," and now 
the pale lips are locked in eternal silence, and some 
ears hunger in vain *' for the sound of a voice that is 
J Hupfeld would transfer ver. 13, which beginsJ the 


second part, so that it should stand before the refrain, 
which would then have the Selah, that now comes in 
peculiarly at the end of ver. 13. But there is nothing 
unnatural in the first ver'se of the second part summing 
up the contents of the first part; and such a summary 
is needed in order to bring out the contrast between 
the godless folly and end of the rich men on the one 
hand, and the hope of the psalmist on the other. The 
construction of ver. 1 3 is disputed. The '* way " may 
either mean conduct or fate, and the word rendered in the 
A. V. and R.V. '^ folly " has also the meaning of stupid 
security or self-confidence.^ It seems best to regard the 
sentence as not pronouncing again that the conduct 
described in vv. 6-1 1 is foolish, but that the end fore- 
told in ver. 12 surely falls on such as have that dogged 
insensibility to the facts of life which issues in such 
presumptuous assurance. Many commentators would 
carry on the sentence into ver. 13 ^, and extend the " lot " 
to those who in after-generations approve their sayings. 
But the paradoxical fact that notwithstanding each 
generation's experience the delusion is obstinately main- 
tained from father to son yields a fuller meaning. In 
either case the notes of the musical interlude fix atten- 
tion on the thought, in order to make the force of the 
following contrast greater. That contrast first dea 
with the fate of godless men after death. The co 
parison with the " beasts " in the refrain may have 
suggested the sombre grandeur of the metaphor in ver. 
14 a and b : Sheol is as a great fold into which flocks 
are driven. There Death rules as the shepherd of that 
dim realm. What a contrast to the fold and the flock 
of the other Shepherd, who guides His unterrified sheep 
through the " valley of the shadow of death " I The 
waters of stillness beside which this sad shepherd makes 


xlix.] THE PSALMS 109 

his flock lie down are doleful and sluggish. There is 
no cheerful activity for these, nor any fair pastures, but 
they are penned in compelled inaction in that dreadful 

So far the picture is comparatively clear, but with 
the next clause difficulties begin. Does the "morn- 
ing " mean only the end of the night of trouble, the 
beginning in this life of the " upright's " deliverance, or 
have we here an eschatological utterance ? The whole 
of the rest of the verse has to do with the unseen world, 
and to confine this clause to the temporal triumph of 
the righteous over their dead oppressors drags in an 
idea belonging to another sphere altogether. We 
venture to regard the interpretation of these enigmatical 
words, which sees in them a dim adumbration of a great 
morning which will yet stream its light into the land of 
darkness, and in which not this or that upright man 
but the class as a whole shall triumph, as the only one 
which keeps the parts of the verse in unity. It is part 
of the " riddle " of the psalmist, probably not perfectly 
explicable to himself. We cannot say that there is here 
the clear teaching of a resurrection, but there is the 
germ of it, whether distinctly apprehended by the 
singer or not. The first glimpses of truth in all regions 
are vague, and the gazer does not know that the star 
he sees is a sun. Not otherwise did the great truths 
of the future life rise on inspired men of old. This 
psalmist divined, or^ more truly, heard in his bent ear, 
that Good and its lovers should triumph beyond the 
grave, and that somehow a morning would break for 
them. But he knew nothing of any such for the god- 
less dead. And the remainder of the verse expresses 
in enigmatical brevity and obscurity the gloomy fate 
of those for whom there was no such awakening as 


he hoped for himself. Very different renderings have 
been given of the gnarled words. If we adhere to 
the accents, the literal translation is, "Their form is 
[destined] for the wasting of Sheol, from a dwelling- 
place for it," or "without its dwelling-place " — an obscure 
saying, which is, however, intelligible when rendered as 
above. It describes the wasting away of the whole 
man, not merely his corporeal form, in Sheol, of which 
the corruption of the body in the grave may stand as a 
terrible symbol, so that only a thin shred of personality 
remains, which wanders homeless, unclothed with any 
house either " of this tabernacle " or any other, and so 
found drearily naked. Homeless desolation of bare 
being, from which all that is fair or good has been 
gnawed away, is awfully expressed in the words. 
Other renderings, neglecting the accents and amending 
the text, bring out other meanings : such as " Their 
form is for corruption ; Hades [will be] its dwelling- 
place " (Jennings and Lowe) ; " Their form shall waste 
away. Sheol shall be their castle for ever " (so Cheyne 
in "Book of Psalms"; in "Orig. of Psalt."/r«;;/^ is sub- 
stituted for formy and palace for castle. Baethgen gives 
up the attempt to render the text or to restore it, and 
takes to asterisks). 

To this condition of dismal inactivity, as of sheep 
penned in a fold, of loss of beauty, of wasting and home- 
lessness, the psalmist opposes the fate which he has risen 
to anticipate for himself. Ver. 15 is plainly antithetical, 
not only to ver. 14, but to ver. 7. The " redemption " 
which was impossible with men is possible with God. 
The emphatic particle of asseveration and restriction 
at the beginning is, as we have remarked, character- 
istic of the parallel Psalm Ixiii. It here strengthens 
the exj-ression of confidence, and points to God as 

xlix.] THE PSALMb III 

alone able to deliver His servant from the "hand of 
Sheol." That deliverance is clearly not escape from 
the universal lot, which the psalmist has just proclaimed 
so impressively as affecting wise and foolish alike. 
But while he expects that he, too, will have to submit 
to the strong hand that plucks all men from their 
dwelling-places, he has won the assurance that same- 
ness of outward lot covers absolute difference in the 
conditions of those who are subjected to it. The faith 
that he will be delivered from the power of Sheol does 
not necessarily imply the specific kind of deliverance 
involved in resurrection, and it may be a question 
whether that idea was definitely before the singer's 
mind. But, without dogmatising on that doubtful 
point, plainly his expectation was of a life beyond death, 
the antithesis of the cheerless one just painted in such 
gloomy colours. The very brevity of the second clause 
of the verse makes it the more emphatic. 

The same pregnant phrase occurs again with the 
same emphasis in Psalm Ixxiii. 24, "Thou shalt take 
me," and in both passages the psalmist is obviously 
quoting from the narrative of Enoch's translation. 
" God took him " (Gen. v. 24). He has fed his faith on 
that signal instance of the end of a life of communion 
with God, and it has confirmed the hopes which such 
a life cannot but kindle, so that he is ready to submit 
to the common lot, bearing in his heart the assurance 
that, in experiencing it, he will not be driven by that 
grim shepherd into his gloomy fold, but lifted by God 
into His own presence. As in Psalms xvi. and xvii., 
we have here the certainty of immortality filling a 
devout soul as the result of present experience of 
communion with God. These great utterances as to 
the two contrasted conditions after death are, in one 


aspect, the psalmist's " riddle/' in so far as they are 
stated in ^* dark and cloudy words," but, in another 
view, are the solution of the painful enigma of the 
prosperity of the godless and the afflictions of the 
righteous. Fittingly the Selah follows this solemn, 
great hope. 

As the first part began with the psalmist's encourag- 
ing of himself to put away fear, so the whole ends with 
the practical application of the truths declared, in the 
exhortation to others not to be terrified nor bewildered 
out of their faith by the insolent inflated prosperity of 
the godless. The lofty height of wholesome mysticism 
reached in the anticipation of personal immortality is 
not maintained in this closing part. The ground of 
the exhortation is simply the truth proclaimed in the 
first part, with additional emphasis on the thought of 
the necessary parting from all wealth and pomp. 
"Shrouds have no pockets." All the external is left 
behind, and much of the inward too — such as habits, 
desires, ways of thinking, and acquirements which have 
been directed to and bounded by the seen and temporal. 
What is not left behind is character and desert. The 
man of this world is wrenched from his possessions 
by death ; but he who has made God his portion here 
carries his portion with him, and does not enter on that 
other state 

" in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory does he come 
To God who is his home." 

Our Lord's parable of the foolish rich man has 
echoes of this psalm. " Whose shall those things be ? " 
reminds us of " He will not take away any of it"; and 
'* Soul, thou hast much goods laid up . , . take thine 
ease " is the best explanation of what the psalmist 

ilix.] THE PSALMS 113 

meant by " blessing his soul." The godless rich man 
of the psalm is a selfish and godless one. His condem- 
nation lies not in his wealth, but in his absorption in it 
and reliance upon it, and in his cherishing the dream 
of perpetual enjoyment of it, or at least shunning 
the thought of its loss. Therefore, " when he dies, he 
goes to the generation of his fathers," who are con- 
ceived of as gathered in solemn assembly in that dark 
realm. " Generation " here implies, as it often does, 
moral similarity. It includes all the man's predecessors 
of like temper with himself. A sad company sitting 
there in the dark 1 Going to them is not identical with 
death nor with burial, but implies at least some rudi- 
mentary notion of companionship according to character, 
in that land of darkness. The darkness is the privation 
of all which deserves the nam^e of light, whether it be 
joy or purity. Ver. 18^ is by some taken to be the 
psalmist's address to the rich man, and by others to be 
spoken to the disciple who had been bidden not to fear. 
In either case it brings in the thought of the popular 
applause which flatters success, and plays chorus to 
the prosperous man's own self-congratulations. Like 
ver. 13 Z>, it gibbets the servile admiration of such men, 
as indicating what the praisers would fain themselves 
be, and as a disclosure of that base readiness to worship 
the rising sun, which has for its other side contempt 
for the unfortunate who should receive pity and help. 

The refrain is slightly but significantly varied. In- 
stead of ** abides not," it reads '* and has not under- 
standing." The alteration in the Hebrew is very 
slight, the two verbs differing only by one letter, and 
the similarity in sound is no doubt the reason for the 
selection of the word. But the change brings out the 
limitations under which the first form of the refrain is 

VOL. IL 8 


true, and guards the whole teaching of the psalm from 
being taken to be launched at rich men as such. The 
illuminative addition in this second form shows that it 
is the abuse of riches, when they steal away that 
recognition of God and of man's mortality which 
underlies the psalmist's conception of understanding, 
that is doomed to destruction like the beasts that are 
put to silence. The two forms of the refrain are, then, 
precisely parallel to our Lord's two sayings, when He 
first declared that it was hard for a rich man to enter 
the kingdom of heaven, and then, in answer to His 
disciples' surprise, put His dictum in the more definite 
form, " How hard is it for them that trust in riches to 
enter into the kingdom 1 " 


1 EI, Elohim, Jehovah has spoken, and called the eartll 
From the place of sunrise to its going down. 

2 From Zion, the perfection of beauty, 
God has shone. 

3 Our God will come, and cannot be silent : 
Fire devours before Him, 

And round Him it is tempestuous exceedingly, 

4 He calls to the heavens above. 

And to the earth, that He may judge His people : 

5 "Assemble to Me My favoured ones. 

Who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.* 

6 And the heavens declare His righteousness ; 
For God — the judge is He. Selah. 

7 Hearken, My people, and I will speak ; 

Israel, and I will witness against thee; 
Elohim, thy God am I. 

8 Not on [account of] thy sacrifices will I reprove thee J 
Yea, thy burnt offerings are before me continually. 

9 I will not take a bullock out of thy house, 
Nor out of thy folds he-goats. 

10 For Mine is every beast of the forest, 
The cattle on the mountains in thousands. 

11 I know every bird of the mountains. 

And whatever moves on the field is before Me, 

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee : 
For Mine is the world and its fulness. 

13 Shall I eat the flesh of bulls, or the blood of he-goats shall I 


14 Sacrifice to God thanksgiving ; 

And pay thy vows to the Most High ; 

15 And call on Me in the day of trouble. 

1 will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me* 



1 6 But to the wicked [man] God saith, 
What hast thou to do to tell My statutes, 

And that thou takest My covenant into thy mouth ? 

17 And [all the while] thou hatest correction, 
And flingest My words behind thee. 

18 If thou seest a robber, thou art pleased with him; 
And with adulterers is thy portion. 

19 Thy mouth thou dost let loose for evil, 
And thy tongue weaves deceit. 

20 Thou sittest [and] speakest against thy brother; 
At thine own mother's son thou aimest a thrust. 

21 These things hast thou done, and I was silent; 
Thou thoughtest that I was altogether like thyself: 

I will reprove thee, and order [the proofs] before thine eyes, 

22{Consider now this, ye that forget God, 

Lest I tear you in pieces, and there be no deliverer : 

23 He who offers thanksgiving as sacrifice glorifies Me ; 

And he who orders his way [aright] — I will show him the salva- 
tion of God. \ 

THIS is the first of the Asaph psalms, and is sepa- 
rated from the other eleven (Psalms Ixxiii.-lxxxiii.) 
for reasons that do not appear. Probably they are no 
more recondite than the verbal resemblance between the 
summons to all the earth at the beginning of Psalm xlix. 
and the similar proclamation in the first verses of 
Psalm 1. The arrangement of the Psalter is often 
obviously determined by such slight links. The group 
has certain features in common, of which some appear 
here : e.g.^ the fondness for descriptions of theophanies ; 
the prominence given to God's judicial action ; the pre- 
ference for the Divine names of El, Adonai (the Lord), 
Elyon (Most High). Other peculiarities of the class — 
e.g.y the love for the designation '* Joseph " for the nation, 
and delight in the image of the Divine Shepherd — are 
not found in this psalm. It contains no historical 
allusions which aid in dating it. The leading idea of 


it — viz., the depreciation of outward sacrifice — is unhesi- 
tatingly declared by many to have been impossible in 
the days of the Levite Asaph, who was one of David's 
musical staff. But is it so certain that such thoughts 
were foreign to the period in which Samuel declared 
that obedience was better than sacrifice ? Certainly 
the tone of the psalm is that of later prophets, and 
there is much probability in the view that Asaph is the 
name of the family or guild of singers from whom these 
psalms came rather than that of an individual. 

The structure is clear and simple. There is, first, a 
magnificent description of God's coming to judgment 
and summoning heaven and earth to witness while 
He judges His people (vv. 1-6). The second part 
(w. 7-15) proclaims the worthlessness of sacrifice; 
and the third (vv. 16-21) brands hypocrites who pollute 
God's statutes by taking them into their lips while their 
lives are foul. A closing strophe of two verses (22, 23) 
gathers up the double lesson of the whole. 

The first part falls again into two, of three verses 
each, of which the former describes the coming of the 
judge, and the latter the opening of the judgment. 
The psalm begins with a majestic heaping together of 
the Divine names, as if a herald were proclaiming the 
style and titles of a mighty king at the opening of a 
solemn assize. No English equivalents are available, 
and it is best to retain the Hebrew, only noting that 
each name is separated from the others by the accents 
in the original, and that to render either " the mighty 
God " (A.V.) or " the God of gods " is not only against 
that punctuation, but destroys the completeness sym- 
bolised by the threefold designation. Hupfeld finds 
the heaping together of names '* frosty." Some ears 
will rather hear in it a solemn reiteration like the boom 


of triple thunders. Each name has its own force of 
meaning. El speaks of God as mighty; Elohim, as 
the object of religious fear ; Jehovah, as the self-existent 
and covenant God. 

The earth from east to west is summoned, not to be 
judged, but to witness God judging His people. The 
peculiarity of this theophany is that God is not repre- 
sented as coming from afar or from above, but as letting 
His light blaze out from Zion, where He sits enthroned. 
As His presence made the city " the joy of the whole 
earth " (Psalm xlviii. 2), so it makes Zion the sum of 
all beauty. The idea underlying the representation of 
His shining out of Zion is that His presence among 
His people makes certain His judgment of their worship. 
It is the poetic clothing of the prophetic announcement, 
*' You only have I known of all the inhabitants of the 
earth ; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities." 
The seer beholds the dread pomp of the advent of 
the Judge, and describes it with accessories familiar 
in such pictures : devouring fire is His forerunner, as 
clearing a path for Him among tangles of evil, and wild 
tempests whirl round His stable throne. " He cannot 
be silent." The form of the negation in the original 
is emotional or emphatic, conveying the idea of the 
impossibility of His silence in the face of such 

The opening of the court or preparation for the judg- 
ment follows. That Divine voice speaks, summoning 
heaven and earth to attend as spectators of the solemn 
process. The universal significance of God's relation 
to and dealings with Israel, and the vindication of His 
righteousness by His inflexible justice dealt out to their 
faults, are grandly taught in this making heaven and 
earth assessors of that tribunal. The court having 


been thus constituted, the Judge on His seat, the 
spectators standing around, the accused are next brought 
in. There is no need to be prosaically definite as to 
the attendants who are bidden to escort them. His 
officers are everywhere, and to ask who they are in the 
present case is to apply to poetry the measuring lines 
meant for bald prose. It is more important to note the 
names by which the persons to be judged are desig- 
nated. They are '* My favoured ones, who have made 
a covenant with Me by (lit. over) sacrifice." These 
terms carry an indictment, recalling the lavish mercies 
so unworthily requited, and the solemn obligations so 
unthankfuUy broken. The application of the name 
"favoured ones" to the whole nation is noteworthy. 
In other psalms it is usually applied to the more devout 
section, who are by it sharply distinguished from the 
mass ; here it includes the whole. It does not follow 
that the diversity of usage indicates difference of date. 
All that is certainly shown is difference of point of view. 
Here the ideal of the nation is set forth, in order to 
bring out more emphatically the miserable contrast of 
the reality. Sacrifice is set aside as worthless in the 
subsequent verses. But could the psalmist have given 
clearer indication that his depreciation is not to be exag- 
gerated into entire rejection of external rites, than by thus 
putting in front of it the worth of sacrifice when offered 
aright, as the means of founding and sustaining covenant 
relations with God ? If his own words had been given 
heed to, his commentators would have been saved the 
blunder of supposing that he is antagonistic to the 
sacrificial worship which he thus regards. 

But before the assize opens, the heavens, which had 
been summoned to behold, declare beforehand His 
righteousness, as manifested by the fact that He is 


about to judge His people. The Selah indicates that 
a long-drawn swell of music fills the expectant pause 
before the Judge speaks from His tribunal. 

The second part (vv. 7-15) deals with one of the two 
permanent tendencies which work for the corruption of 
religion — namely, the reliance on external worship, and 
neglect of the emotions of thankfulness and trust. God 
appeals first to the relation into which He has entered 
with the people, as giving Him the right to judge. 
There may be a reference to the Mosaic formula, " I am 
Jehovah, thy God," which is here converted, in accord- 
ance with the usage of this book of the Psalter, into 
" God (Elohim), thy God." The formula which was the 
seal of laws when enacted is also the warrant for the 
action of the Judge. He has no fault to find with 
the external acts of worship. They are abundant 
and " continually before Him." Surely this declaration 
at the outset sets aside the notion that the psalmist 
was launching a polemic against sacrifices per se. It 
distinctly takes the ground that the habitual offering 
of these was pleasing to the Judge. Their presenta- 
tion continually is not reproved, but approved. What 
then is condemned ? Surely it can be nothing but 
sacrifice without the thanksgiving and prayer required 
in vv. 14, 15. The irony of vv. 9-13 is directed 
against the folly of believing that in sacrifice itself 
God delighted ; but the shafts are pointless as against 
offerings which are embodied gratitude and trust. The 
gross stupidity of supposing that man's gift makes the 
offering to be God's more truly than before is laid 
bare in the fine, sympathetic glance at the free, wild 
fife of forest, mountain, and plain, which is all God's 
possession, and present to His upholding thought, and 
by the side of which man's folds are very small affairs. 


" The cattle " in ver. lo are not, as usually, domes- 
ticated animals, but the larger wild animals. They 
graze or roam " on the mountains of a thousand " — a 
harsh expression, best taken, perhaps, as meaning 
mountains where thousands [of the cattle] are. But 
the omission of one letter gives the more natural 
reading "mountains of God" (cf. Psalm xxxvi. 6). It 
is adopted by Olshausen and Cheyne, and smooths 
the construction, but has against it its obliteration of 
the fine thought of the multitudes of creatures peopling 
the untravelled hills. The word rendered "whatever 
moves " is obscure ; but that meaning is accepted by 
most. Cheyne in his Commentary gives as alternative 
" that which comes forth abundantly," and in " Orig. 
of Psalt," 473, " offspring." All these are " with Me " 
— ?>., present to his mind — a parallel to " I know " in 
the first clause of the same verse. 

Vv. 12, 13, turn the stream of irony on another 
absurdity involved in the superstition attacked — the 
grossly material thought of God involved in it. What 
good do bulls' flesh and goats* blood do to Him ? But 
if these are expressions of thankful love, they are 
delightsome to Him. Therefore the section ends with 
the declaration that the true sacrifice is thanksgiving 
and the discharge of vows. Men honour God by 
asking and taking, not by giving. They glorify Him 
when, by calling on Him in trouble, they are delivered ; 
and then, by thankfulness and service, as well as by 
the evidence which their experience gives that prayer 
is not in vain, they again glorify Him. All sacrifices 
are God's before they are offered, and do not become 
any more His by being offered. He neither needs nor 
can partake of material sustenance. But men's hearts 
are not His without their glad surrender, in the same 


way as after it ; and thankful love, trust, and obedience 
are as the food of God, sacrifices acceptable, well- 
pleasing to Him. 

The third part of the psalm is still sterner in tone. 
It strikes at the other great corruption of worship by 
hypocrites. As has been often remarked, it condemns 
breaches of the second table of the law, just as the 
former part may be regarded as dealing with transgres- 
sions of the first. The eighth, seventh, and ninth com- 
mandments are referred to in vv. i8, 19, as examples 
of the hypocrites* sins. The irreconcilable contradiction 
of their professions and conduct is vividly brought out 
in the juxtaposition of *' declare My statutes " and 
" castest My words behind thee." They do two opposite 
things with the same words — at the same time pro- 
claiming them with all lip-reverence, and scornfully 
flinging them behind their backs in their conduct. The 
word rendered in the A.V. '* slanderest " is better taken 
as in margin of the R.V., " givest a thrust," meaning to 
use violence so as to harm or overthrow. 

Hypocrisy finds encouragement in impunity. God's 
silence is an emphatic way of expressing His patient 
tolerance of evil unpunished. Such " long-sufFenng " 
is meant to lead to repentance, and indicates God's 
unwillingness to smite. But, as experience shows, it 
is often abused, and " because sentence against an evil 
work is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of 
men is throughly set in them to do evil." The gross 
mind has gross conceptions of God. One nemesis of 
hypocrisy is the dimming of the idea of the righteous 
Judge. All sin darkens the image of God. When men 
turn away from God's self-revelation, as they do by 
transgression and most fatally by hypocrisy, they can- 
not but make a God after their own image. Browning 

1.] THE PSALMS 123 

has taught us in his marvellous ** Caliban on Setebos " 
how a coarse nature projects its own image into the 
heavens and calls it God. God made man in His own 
likeness. Men who have lost that likeness make God 
in theirs, and so sink deeper in evil till He speaks. 
Then comes an apocalypse to the dreamer, when there 
is flashed before him what God is and what he himself 
is. How terror-stricken the gaze of these eyes before 
which God arrays the deeds of a life, seen for the first 
time in their true character I It will be the hypocrite's 
turn to keep silence then, and his thought of a com- 
plaisant God like himself will perish before the stern 

( The whole teaching of the psalm is gathered up in 
the two closing verses. " Ye that forget God " includes 
both the superstitious formalists and the hypocrites. 
Reflection upon such truths as those of the psalm will 
save them from else inevitable destruction.^ " This " 
points on to ver. 23, which is a compendium of both 
parts of the psalm. The true worship, which consists 
in thankfulness and praise, is opposed in ver. 23 a to 
mere externalisms of sacrifice, as being the right way 
of glorifying God. The second clause presents a diffi- 
culty. But it would seem that we must expect to find 
in it a summing up of the warning of the third part 
of the psalm similar to that of the second part in the 
preceding clause. That consideration goes against the 
rendering in the R.V. margin (adopted from Delitzsch) : 
" and prepares a way [by which] I may show," etc. 
The ellipsis of the relative is also somewhat harsh. 
The literal rendering of the ambiguous words is, " one 
setting a way." Graetz, who is often wild in his 
emendations, proposes a very slight one here — the 
change of one letter, which would yield a good 


meaning : " he that is perfect in his way." Cheyne 
adopts this, and it eases a difficulty. But the received 
text is capable of the rendering given in the A.V., 
and, even without the natural supplement "aright," is 
sufficiently intelligible. To order one's way or " con- 
versation " is, of course, equivalent to giving heed to it 
according to God's word, and is the opposite of the 
conduct stigmatised in vv. 16-2 1. The promise to him 
who thus acts is that he shall see God's salvation, both 
in the narrower sense of daily interpositions for deliver- 
ance, and in the wider of a full and final rescue from 
all evil and endowment with all good. The psalm has 
as keen an edge for modern as for ancient sins. 
Superstitious reliance on externals of worship survives, 
though sacrifices have ceased ; and hypocrites, with 
their mouths full of the Gospel, still cast God's words 
behind them, as did those ancient hollow-hearted 
proclaimers and breakers of the Law. 


1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness : 
According to the greatness of Thy compassions blot out m^ 


2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, 
And from my sin make me clean. 

3 For I, I know my transgressions : 
And my sin is before me continually. 

4 Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned. 
And done what is evil in Thine eyes : 

That Thou mightest appear righteous when Thou speakest. 
And clear when Thou judgest. 

^Behold, in iniquity was I bom ; 

And in sin did my mother conceive me. 

6 Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: 
Therefore in the hidden part make me to know wisdomA 

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean : 
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness ; 

That the bones Thou hast crushed may exult. 

9 Hide Thy face from my sins, and all my iniquities blot out 

ID A clean heart create tor me, O God ; 

And a steadfast spirit renew within me. 

1 1 Cast me not out from Thy presence ; 
And Thy holy spirit take not from me. 

12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation ; 
And .with a willing spirit uphold me. 

13 [Then] will I teach trangressors Thy ways; 
And sinners shall return to Thee, 



14 Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation ; 
A^nd my tongue shall joyfully sing Thy righteousness, 

15 Lord, open my lips; 

And my mouth shall declare Thy praise. 

16 For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give its 
In burnt offering Thou hast no pleasure. 

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: 

A heart broken and crushed, O God, Thou wilt not despise. 

18 Do good in Thy good pleasure to Zion : 
O build the walls of Jerusalem. 

19 Then shalt Thou delight in sacrifices of righteousness, burnl 

offering and whole burnt offering : 
Then shall they offer bullocks on Thine altar. 

THE main grounds on which the Davidic author- 
ship of this psalm is denied are four. First, it is 
alleged that its conceptions of sin and penitence are in 
advance of his stage of religious development ; or, as 
Cheyne puts it, " David could not have had these ideas " 
("Aids to Dev. Study of Crit," 166). The impossibility 
depends on a theory which is not yet so established 
as to be confidently used to settle questions of date. 
Again, the psalmist's wail, " Against Thee only have I 
sinned," is said to be conclusive proof that the wrong 
done to Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah cannot be 
referred to. But is not God the correlative of sm, and 
may not the same act be qualified in one aspect as a 
crime and in another as a sin, bearing in the latter 
character exclusive relation to God ? The prayer in 
ver. 18 is the ground of a third objection to the Davidic 
authorship. Certainly it is hopeless to attempt to 
explain " Build the walls of Jerusalem " as David's 
prayer. But the opinion held by both advocates and 
opponents of David's authorship, that vv. 18, 19, are 
a later liturgical addition, removes this difficulty. 
Another ground on which the psalm is brought down 


to a late date is the resemblances in it to Isa. xl.-lxvi., 
which are taken to be echoes of the prophetic words. 
The resemblances are undoubted ; the assumption that 
the psalmist is the copyist is not. 

The personified nation is supposed by most modern 
authorities to be the speaker ; and the date is sometimes 
taken to be the Restoration period, before the rebuilding 
of the walls by Nehemiah (Cheyne, " Orig. of Psalt.," 
162) ; by others, the time of the Babylonish exile ; and, 
as usual, by some, the Maccabean epoch. It puts a con- 
siderable strain upon the theory of personification to 
believe that these confessions of personal sin, and long- 
ing cries for a clean heart, which so many generations 
have felt to fit their most secret experiences, were not the 
wailings of a soul which had learned the burden of indi- 
viduality, by consciousness of sin, and by realisation of 
the awful solitude of its relation to God. There are also 
expressions in the psalm which seem to clog the supposi- 
tion that the speaker is the nation with great difficulties 
— e,g.^ the reference to birth in ver. 5, the prayer for 
inward truth in ver. 6, and for a clean heart in ver. 10. 
Baethgen acknowledges that the two latter only receive 
their full meaning when applied to an individual. He 
quotes Olshausen, a defender of the national reference, 
who really admits the force of the objection to it, raised 
on the ground of these expressions, while he seeks to 
parry it by sa3ang that "it is not unnatural that the 
poet, speaking in the singular, should, although he writes 
for the congregation, bring in occasional expressions 
here and there which do not fit the community so well 
as they do each individual in it." The acknowledg- 
ment is valuable ; the attempt to turn its edge may be 
left to the reader's judgment. 

In vv. 1-9 the psalmist's cry is chiefly for pardon ; in 


w. IO-I2 he prays chiefly for purity; in vv. 13-17 he 
vows grateful service. Vv. 18, 19, are probably a later 

The psalm begins with at once grasping the 
character of God as the sole ground of hope. That 
character has been revealed in an infinite number of 
acts of love. The very number of the psalmist's sins 
drove him to contemplate the yet greater number of 
God's mercies. For where but in an infinite placable- 
ness and loving-kindness could he find pardon ? If the 
Davidic authorship is adopted, this psalm followed 
Nathan's assurance of forgiveness, and its petitions are 
the psalmist's efforts to lay hold of that assurance. 
The revelation of God's love precedes and causes true 
penitence. Our prayer for forgiveness is the appropria- 
tion of God's promise of forgiveness. The assurance 
of pardon does not lead to a light estimate of sin, but 
drives it home to the conscience. 

The petitions of vv. I, 2, teach us how the psalmist 
thought of sin. They are all substantially the same, 
and their repetition discloses the depth of longing in 
the suppliant. The language fluctuates between plural 
and singular nouns, designating the evil as ** transgres- 
sions" and as ** iniquity " and "sin." The psalmist 
regards it, first, as a multitude of separate acts, then 
as all gathered together into a grim unity. The single 
deeds of wrong-doing pass before him. But these have 
a common root ; and we must not only recognise acts, 
but that alienation of heart from which they come — not 
only sin as it comes out in the life, but as it is coiled 
round our hearts. Sins are the manifestations of sin. 

We note, too, how the psalmist realises his personal 
responsibility. He reiterates ** my " — ** my transgres- 
sions, my iniquity, my sin." He does not throw blame 


on circumstances, or talk about temperament or maxims 
of society or bodily organisation. All these had some 
share in impelling him to sin ; but after all allowance 
made for them, the deed is the doer's, and he must 
bear its burden. 

The same eloquent synonyms for evil deeds which 
are found in Psalm xxxii. occur again here. " Trans- 
gression " is literally rebellion ; '* iniquity," that which 
is twisted or bent ; " sin," missing a mark. Sin is 
rebellion, the uprising of the will against rightful 
authority — not merely the breach of abstract propriety 
or law, but opposition to a living Person, who has right 
to obedience. The definition of virtue is obedience to 
God, and the sin in sin is the assertion of independence 
of God and opposition to His will. 

Not less profound is that other name, which regards 
sin as ** iniquity " or distortion. Then there is a 
straight line to which men's lives should run parallel. 
Our life's paths should be like these conquering Roman 
roads, turning aside for nothing, but going straight 
to their aim over mountain and ravine, stream or 
desert. But this man's passion had made for him a 
crooked path, where he found no end, ^' in wandering 
mazes lost." Sin is, further, missing an aim, the aim 
being either the Divine purpose for man, the true Ideal 
of manhood, or the satisfaction proposed by the sinner 
to himself as the result of his sin. In both senses 
every sin misses the mark. 

These petitions show also how the psalmist thought 
of forgiveness. As the words for sin give a threefold 
view of it, so those for pardon set it forth in t iree 
aspects. " Blot out " ; — that petition conceives of for- 
giveness as being the erasure of a writing, perhaps o{ an 
indictment. Our past is a blurred manuscript, fill of 

VOL. II. 9 


false and bad things. The melancholy theory of some 
thinkers is summed up in the despairing words, *' What 
I have written, I have written." But the psalmist knew 
better than that ; and we should know better than he 
did. Our souls may become palimpsests ; and, as de- 
votional meditations might be written by a saint on a 
parchment that had borne foul legends of false gods, the 
bad writing on them may be obliterated, and God's law 
be written there. '' Wash me thoroughly " needs no 
explanation. But the word employed is significant, in 
that it probably means washing by kneading or beating, 
not by simple rinsing. The psalmist is ready to submit 
to any painful discipline, if only he may be cleansed. 
'* Wash me, beat me, tread me down, hammer me with 
mallets, dash me against stones, do anything with me, 
if only these foul stains are melted from the texture of 
my soul." The psalmist had not heard of the alchemy 
by which men can *' wash their robes and make them 
white in the blood of the Lamb " ; but he held fast by 
God's " loving-kindness,'* and knew the blackness of 
his own sin, and groaned under it ; and therefore his 
cry was not in vain. An anticipation of the Christian 
teaching as to forgiveness lies in his last expression foi- 
pardon, " make me clean," which is the technical word 
for the priestly act of declaring ceremonial purity, and 
for the other priestly act of making as well as declaring 
clean from the stains of leprosy. The suppliant thinks 
of his guilt not only as a blotted record or as a polluted 
robe, but as a fatal disease, the " first-born of death," 
and as capable of being taken away only by the hand 
of the Priest laid on the feculent mass. We know who 
put out His hand and touched the leper, and said, *' I 
will : be thou clean." 

The petitions for cleansing are, in ver. 3, urged on 


the ground of the psalmist^s consciousness of sin. 
Penitent confession is a condition of forgiveness. 
There is no need to take this verse as giving the 
reason why the psalmist offered his prayer, rather 
than as presenting a plea why it should be answered. 
Some commentators have adopted the former explana- 
tion, from a fear lest the other should give countenance 
to the notion that repentance is a meritorious cause 
of forgiveness ; but that is unnecessary scrupulousness. 
"Sin is always sin, and deserving of punishment, 
whether it is confessed or not. Still, confession of 
sin is of importance on this account — that God will be 
gracious to none but to those who confess their sin " 
(Luther, quoted by Perowne). 

Ver. 4 sounds the depths in both its clauses. In 
the first the psalmist shuts out all other aspects of his 
guilt, and is absorbed in its solemnity as viewed in 
relation to God. It is asked. How could David have 
thought of his sin, which had in so many ways been 
" against " others, as having been " against Thee, Thee 
only " ? As has been noted above, this confession has 
been taken to demonstrate conclusively the impossibility 
of the Davidic authorship. But surely it argues a 
strange ignorance of the language of a penitent soul, 
to suppose that such words as the psalmist's could be 
spoken only in regard to sins which had no bearing 
at all on other men. David's deed had been a crime 
against Bathsheba, against Uriah, against his family 
and his realm ; but these were not its blackest charac- 
teristics. Every crime against man is sin against God. 
" Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of 
these ... ye have done it unto Me " is the spirit of 
the Decalogue as well as the language of Jesus. And it 
is only when considered as having relation to God that 


crimes are darkened into sins. The psalmist is stating 
a strictly true and profound thought when he declares 
that he has sinned " against Thee only." Further, that 
thought has, for the time being, filled his whole horizon. 
Other aspects of his shameful deed will torture him 
enough in coming days, even when he has fully entered 
into the blessedness of forgiveness ; but they are not 
present to his mind now, when the one awful thought 
of his perverted relation to God swallows up all others. 
A man who has never felt that all-engrossing sense of 
his sin as against God only has much to learn. 

/The second clause of ver. 4 opens the question 
whether " in order that " is always used in the Old 
Testament in its full meaning as expressing intention, 
or sometimes in the looser signification of " so that," 
expressing result. Several passages usually referred 
to on this point (e.g.^ Psalm xxx. 12 ; Exod. xi. 9 ; Isa. 
xliv. 9 ; Hos. viii. 4) strongly favour the less stringent 
view, which is also in accordance with the genius of 
the Hebrew race, who were not metaphysicians. The 
other view, that the expression here means " in order 
that," insists on grammatical precision in the cries of a 
penitent heart, and clogs the words with difficulty. If 
their meaning is that the psalmist's sin was intended to 
show forth God's righteousness in judging, the intention 
must have been God's, not the sinner's ; and such a 
thought not only ascribes man's sin directly to God, but 
is quite irrelevant to the psalmist's purpose in the words]) 
For he is not palliating his transgression or throwing it 
on Divine predestination (as Cheyne takes him to be 
doing), but is submitting himself, in profoundest abase- 
ment of undivided guilt, to the just judgment of God. 
His prayer for forgiveness is accompanied with willing- 
ness to submit to chastisement, as all true desire for 

li] THE PSALMS 133 

pardon is. He makes no excuses for his sin, but 
submits himself unconditionally to the just judgment 
of God. " Thou remainest the Holy One ; I am the 
sinner ; and therefore Thou mayest, with perfect justice, 
punish me and spurn me from Thy presence " (Stier). 

Vv. 5, 6, are marked as closely related by the 
" Behold " at the beginning of each. The psalmist 
passes from penitent contemplation and confession of 
his acts of sin to acknowledge his sinful nature, derived 
from sinful parents. " Original sin " is theological ter- 
minology for the same facts which science gathers 
together under the name of ^* heredity." The psalmist 
is not responsible for later dogmatic developments of 
the idea, but he feels that he has to confess not only 
his acts but his nature. " A corrupt tree cannot bring 
forth good fruit." The taint is transmitted. No fact 
is more plain than this, as all the more serious 
observers of human life and of their own characters 
have recognised. Only a superficial view of humanity 
or an inadequate conception of morality can jauntily 
say that "all children are born good." Theologians 
have exaggerated and elaborated, as is their wont, and 
so have made the thought repugnant ; but the derived 
sinful bias of human nature is a fact, not a dogma, and 
those who know it and their own share of it best will 
be disposed to agree with Browning, in finding one 
great reason for believing in Biblical religion, that — 

***Tis the faith that launched point-blank her dart 
At the head of a lie — taught Original Sin, 
The Corruption of Man's Heart." 

The psalmist is not, strictly speaking, either extenu- 
ating or aggravating his sin by thus recognising his 
evil nature. He does not think that sin is the less his, 


because the tendency has been inherited. But he is 
spreading all his condition before God. In fact, he 
is not so much thinking of his criminality as of his 
desperate need. From a burden so heavy and so inter- 
twined with himself none but God can deliver him. 
He cannot cleanse himself, for self is infected. He 
cannot find cleansing among men, for they too have 
inherited the poison. And so he is driven to God, or 
else must sink into despair. He who once sees into 
the black depths of his own heart will give up thereafter 
all ideas of " every man his own redeemer." That the 
psalmist's purpose was not to minimise his own guilt 
is clear, not only from the tone of the psalm, but from 
the antithesis presented by the Divine desire after 
inward truth in the next verse, which is out of place 
if this verse contains a palliation for sin. 

We can scarcely miss the bearing of this verse on 
the question of whether the psalm is the confession of 
an individual penitent or that of the nation. It strongly 
favours the former view, though it does not make the 
latter absolutely impossible. 

The discovery of inherent and inherited sinfulness 
brings with it another discovery — that of the penetrating 
depth of the requirements of God's law. He cannot be 
satisfied with outside conformity in deed. The more 
intensely conscience realises sin, the more solemnly 
rises before it the Divine ideal of man in its inwardness 
as well as in its sweep. Truth within — inward corre- 
spondence with His will, and absolute smcerity of soul 
are His desire. But I am ** born in iniquity" : a terrible 
antithesis, and hopeless but for one hope, which dawns 
over the suppliant like morning on a troubled sea. 
If we cannot ask God to make us what He wishes us 
to be, these two discoveries of our nature and of His 

li,] THE PSALMS 135 

will are open doorways to despair ; but he who appre- 
hends them wisely will find in their conjoint operation 
a force impelling him to prayer, and therefore to con- 
fidence. Only God can enable such a Being as man to 
become such as He will delight in ; and since He seeks 
for truth within, He thereby pledges Himself to give 
the truth and wisdom for which He seeks. 

Meditation on the sin which was ever before the 
psalmist, passes into renewed prayers for pardon, 
which partly reiterate those already offered in w. I, 2. 
The petition in ver. 7 for purging with hyssop alludes 
to sprinkling of lepers and unclean persons, and indicates 
both a consciousness of great impurity and a clear 
perception of the symbolic meaning of ritual cleansings. 
" Wash me " repeats a former petition ; but now the 
psalmist can venture to dwell more on the thought of 
future purity than he could do then. The approaching 
answer begins to make its brightness visible through 
the gloom, and it seems possible to the suppliant that 
even his stained nature shall ghsten like sunlit snow. 
Nor does that expectation exhaust his confidence. He 
hopes for "joy and gladness." His bones have been 
crushed — i.e.^ his whole self has been, as it were, ground 
to powder by the weight of God's hand ; but restoration 
is possible. A penitent heart is not too bold when it 
asks for joy. There is no real well-founded gladness 
without the consciousness of Divine forgiveness. The 
psalmist closes his petitions for pardon (ver. 9) with 
asking God to '*hide His face from his sins," so that 
they be, as it were, no more existent for Him, and, 
by a repetition of the initial petition in ver. i, for the 
blotting out of " all mine inquities." 

The second principal division begins with ver. 10, 
and is a prayer for purity, followed by vows of glad ser- 


vice. The prayer is contained in three verses (10-12), 
of which the first implores complete renewal of nature, 
the second beseeches that there may be no break 
between the suppliant and God, and the third asks for 
the joy and willingness to serve which would flow 
from the granting of the desires preceding. In each 
verse the second clause has ** spirit " for its leading 
word, and the middle one of the three asks for ** Thy 
holy spirit." The petitions themselves, and the order 
in which they occur, are deeply significant, and deserve 
much more elucidation than can be given here. The 
same profound consciousness of inward corruption 
which spoke in the former part of the psalm shapes the 
prayer for renewal. Nothing less than a new creation 
will make this man's heart *' clean." His past has 
taught him that. The word employed is always used 
of God's creative act ; and the psalmist feels that nothing 
less than the power which brooded over the face of 
primeval chaos, and evolved thence an ordered world, 
can deal with the confused ruin within himself. What 
he felt that he must have is what prophets promised 
(Jer. xxiv. 7 ; Ezek. xxxvi. 26) and Christ has brought 
— a new creation, in which, while personality remains 
unaffected, and the components of character continue 
as before, a real new life is bestowed, which stamps 
new directions on affections, gives new aims, impulses, 
convictions, casts out inveterate evils, and gradually 
changes '* all but the basis of the soul." A desire for 
pardon which does not unfold into such longing for 
deliverance from the misery of the old self is not the 
offspring of genuine penitence, but only of base fear. 

** A steadfast spirit " is needful in order to keep a 
cleansed heart clean ; and, on the other hand, when, by 
cleanness of heart, a man is freed from the perturba- 

iq THE PSALMS 137 

tions of rebellious desires and the weakening influences 
of sin, his spirit will be steadfast. The two character- 
istics sustain each other. Consciousness of corruption 
dictated the former desire ; penitent recognition of 
weakness and fluctuation inspires the latter. It may be 
observed, too, that the triad of petitions having reference 
to " spirit " has for its central one a prayer for God's 
Spirit, and that the other two may be regarded as 
dependent on that. Where God's Spirit dwells, the 
human spirit in which it abides will be firm with un- 
created strength. His energy, being infused into a 
tremulous, changeful humanity, will make it stable. If 
we are to stand fast, we must be stayed on God. 

The group of petitions in ver. 11 is negative. It 
deprecates a possible tragic separation from God, and 
that under two aspects. *' Part me not from Thee ; 
part not Thyself from me." The former prayer, **Cast 
me not out from Thy presence," is by some explained 
according to the analogy of other instance© of the 
occurrence of the phrase, where it means expulsion 
from the land of Israel ; and is claimed, thus inter- 
preted, as a clear indication that the psalmist speaks in 
the name of the nation. But however certainly the 
expression is thus used elsewhere, it cannot, without 
introducing an alien thought, be so interpreted in its 
present connection, imbedded in petitions of the most 
spiritual and individual character : much rather, the 
psalmist is recoiling from what he knows only too well to 
be the consequence of an unclean heart — separation from 
God, whether in the sense of exclusion from the sanc- 
tuary, or in the profounder sense, which is not too deep 
for such a psalm, of conscious loss of the light of God's 
face. He dreads being, Cain-like, shut out from that 
presence which is life ; and he knows that, unless his 


previous prayer for a clean heart is answered, that 
dreary soHtude of great darkness must be his lot. The 
sister petition, **Take not Thy holy spirit from me," 
contemplates the union between God and him from 
the other side. He regards himself as possessing that 
Divine spirit ; for he knows that, notwithstanding his 
sin, God has not left him, else he would not have these 
movements of godly sorrow and yearnings for purity. 
There is no reason to commit the anachronism of sup- 
posing that the psalmist had any knowledge of New 
Testament teaching of a personal Divine Spirit. But 
if we may suppose that he is David, this prayer has 
special force. That anointing which designated and 
fitted him for kingly office symbolised the gift of a 
Divine influence accompanying a Divine call. If we 
further remember how it had fared with his predecessor, 
from whom, because of impenitence, '* the Spirit of the 
Lord departed, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled 
him," we understand how Saul's successor, trembling 
as he remembers his fate, prays with peculiar emphasis, 
" Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me." 

The last member of the triad, in ver. 12, looks back 
to former petitions, and asks for restoration of the "joy 
of Thy salvation," which had lain like dew on this man 
before he fell. In this connection the supplication for 
joy follows on the other two, because the joy which it 
desires is the result of their being granted. For what 
is " Thy salvation " but the gift of a clean heart and a 
steadfast spirit, the blessed consciousness of unbroken 
closeness of communion with God, in which the sup- 
pliant suns himself in the beams of God's face, and 
receives an uninterrupted communication of His Spirit's 
gifts ? These are the sources of pure joy, lasting as 
God Himself, and victorious over all occasions for 

tt] THE PSALMS 139 

surface sorrow. The issue of all these gifts will be 
"a willing spirit," delighting to obey, eager to serve. 
If God's Spirit dwells in us, obedience will be delight. 
To serve God because we must is not service. To 
serve Him because we had rather do His will than 
anything else is the service which delights Him 
and blesses us. The word rendered ''willing" comes 
by a very natural process, to mean nobles. God's 
servants are princes and lords of everything besides, 
themselves included. Such obedience is freedom. If 
desires flow with equable motion parallel to God's will, 
there is no sense of restraint in keeping within limits 
beyond which we do not desire to go. "I will walk at 
liberty ; for I keep Thy precepts." 

The last part of the psalm runs over with joyful 
vows — first, of magnifying God's name (vv. 13-15), 
and then of offering true sacrifices. A man who has 
passed through such experiences as the psalmist's, 
and has received the blessings for which he prayed, 
cannot be silent. The instinct of hearts touched by 
God's mercies is to speak of them to others. And no 
man who can say " I will tell what He has done for 
my soul " is without the most persuasive argument to 
bring to bear on others. A piece of autobiography will 
touch men who are unaffected by elaborate reasonings 
and deaf to polished eloquence. The impulse and the 
capacity to " teach transgressors Thy ways " are given 
in the experience of sin and forgiveness ; and if any 
one has not the former, it is questionable whether he 
has, in any real sense or large measure, received the 
latter. The prayer for deliverance from blood-guiltiness 
in ver. 14 breaks for a moment the flow of vows ; but 
only for a moment. It indicates how amid them the 
psalmist preserved his sense of guilt, and how little he 


was disposed to think lightly of the sins of whose 
forgiveness he had prayed himself into the assurance. 
Its emergence here, like a black rock pushing its 
grimness up through a sparkling, sunny sea, is no sign 
of doubt whether his prayers had been answered ; but 
it marks the abiding sense of sinfulness, which must 
ever accompany abiding gratitude for pardon and abiding 
holiness of heart. It seems hard to believe, as the 
advocates of a national reference in the psalm are 
obliged to do, that '^ blood-guiltiness " has no special 
reference to the psalmist's crime, but is employed 
simply as typical of sin in general. The mention of 
it finds a very obvious explanation on the hypothesis 
of Davidic authorship, and a rather constrained one on 
any other. 

Ver. 1 6 introduces the reason for the preceding vow 
of grateful praise, as is shown by the initial " For." 
The psalmist will bring the sacrifices of a grateful 
heart making his lips musical, because he has learned 
that these, and not ritual offerings, are acceptable. 
The same depreciation of external sacrifices is strongly 
expressed in Psalm xl. 6, and here, as there, is not 
to be taken as an absolute condemnation of these, but 
as setting them decisively below spiritual service. To 
suppose that prophets or psalmists waged a polemic 
against ritual observances per se misapprehends their 
position entirely. They do war against " the sacrifice 
of the wicked," against external acts which had no 
inward reality corresponding to them, against reliance 
on the outward and its undue exaltation. The authors 
of the later addition to this psalm had a true concep- 
tion of its drift when they appended to it, not as a 
correction of a heretical tendency, but as a liturgical 
addition in full harmony with its spirit, the vow to 

li.] THE PSALMS 141 

** offer whole burnt offerings on" the restored "altar," 
when God should again build up Zion. 

The psalmist's last words are immortal. "A heart 
broken and crushed, O God, Thou wilt not despise.'' 
But they derive still deeper beauty and pathos when 
it is observed that they are spoken after confession 
has been answered to his consciousness by pardon, 
and longing for purity by at least some bestowal of 
it. The "joy of Thy salvation," for which he had 
prayed, has begun to flow into his heart. The 
" bones " which had been " crushed " are beginning 
to reknit, and thrills of gladness to steal through his 
frame ; but still he feels that with all these happy 
experiences contrite consciousness of his sin must 
mingle. It does not rob his joy of one rapture, but it 
keeps it from becoming careless. He goes safely who 
goes humbly. The more sure a man is that God has 
put away the iniquity of his sin, the more should he 
remember it ; for the remembrance will vivify gratitude 
and bind close to Him without whom there can be no 
steadfastness of spirit nor purity of life. The clean 
heart must continue contrite, if it is not to cease to be 

The liturgical addition implies that Jerusalem is in 
ruins. It cannot be supposed without violence to 
3ome from David. It is not needed in order to form a 
completion to the psalm, which ends more impressively, 
and has an inner unity and coherence, if the deep 
words of ver. ij are taken as its close. 


1 Why boastest thou in wickedness, O tyrant f 
God's loving-kindness lasts always. 

2 Destructions does thy tongue devise ; 

Like a sharpened razor, thou framer of deceit I 

3 Thou lovest evil rather than good ; 

A lie rather than speaking righteousness. Selah. 

4 Thou lovest all words that swallow men up, 
Thou deceitful tongue ! 

5 So God shall break thee down for ever, 

Shall lay hold of thee and drag thee out of the tent- 
And root thee out of the land of the living. Selah. j 

6 And the righteous shall see and fear, 
And at him shall they laugh. 

7 " See 1 the man that made not God his stronghold^ 
And trusted in the abundance of his wealth, 

And felt strong in his evil desire." 

8 But I am like a flourishing olive tree in the house of God : 
I trust in the loving-kindness of God for ever and aye. 

9 I will give Thee thanks for ever, for Thou hast done [this]: 
And I will wait on Thy name before Thy favoured ones, for it is 


THE progress of feeling in this psalm is clear, but 
there is no very distinct division into strophes, 
and one of the two Selahs does not mark a transition, 
though it does make a pause. First, the poet, with 
a few indignant and contemptuous touches, dashes on 
his canvas an outline portrait of an arrogant oppressor, 
whose weapon was slander and his words like pits of 


Hi.] THE PSALMS 14:^ 

ruin. Then, with vehement, exulting metaphors, he 
pictures his destruction. On it follow reverent awe of 
God, whose justice is thereby displayed, and deepened 
sense in righteous hearts of the folly of trust in any- 
thing but Him. Finally, the singer contrasts with" 
thankfulness his own happy continuance in fellowship 
with God with the oppressor's fate, and renews his 
resolve of praise and patient waiting. 

The themes are familiar, and their treatment has 
nothing distinctive. The portrait of the oppressor does 
not strike one as a likeness either of the Edomite 
herdsman Doeg, with whose betrayal of David's asylum 
at Nob the superscription connects the psalm, or of 
Saul, to whom Hengstenberg, feeling the difficulty 
of seeing Doeg in it, refers it. Malicious lies and 
arrogant trust in riches were not the crimes that cried 
for vengeance in the bloody massacre at Nob. Cheyne 
would bring this group of " Davidic " psalms (lii.-lix.) 
down to the Persian period (" Orig. of Psalt," 121-23). 
Olshausen, after Theodore of Mopsuestia (see Cheyne 
loc. cit!) to the Maccabean. But the grounds alleged are 
scarcely strong enough to carry more than the weight 
of a **may be" ; and it is better to recognise that, if the 
superscription is thrown over, the psalm itself does not 
yield sufficiently characteristic marks to enable us to 
fix its date. It may be worth considering whether the 
very absence of any obvious correspondences with 
David's circumstances does not show that the super- 
scription rested on a tradition earlier than itself, and 
not on an editor's discernment. 

The abrupt question at the beginning reveals the 
psalmist's long-pent indignation. He has been silently 
brooding over the swollen arrogance and malicious lies 
of the tyrant, till he can restrain himself no longer, and 


out pours a fiery flood. Evil gloried in is worse than 
evil done. The word rendered in the A.V. and R.V. 
" mighty man " is here used in a bad sense, to indicate 
that he has not only a giant's power, but uses it tyran- 
nously, like a giant. How dramatically the abrupt 
question is followed by the equally abrupt thought of 
the ever-during loving-kindness of God I That makes 
the tyrant's boast supremely absurd, and the psalmist's 
confidence reasonable, even in face of hostile power. 

The prominence given to sins of speech is peculiar. 
We should have expected high-handed violence rather 
than these. But the psalmist is tracking the deeds to 
their source ; and it is not so much the tyrant's words 
as his love of a certain kind of words which is adduced 
as proof of his wickedness. These words have two 
characteristics in addition to boastfulness. They are 
false and destructive. They are, according to the 
forcible literal meaning in ver. 4, "words of swallow- 
ing." They are, according to the literal meaning of 
"destructions," in ver. 2, "yawning gulfs." Such 
words lead to acts which make a tyrant. They flow 
from perverted preference of evil to good. Thus the 
deeds of oppression are followed up to their den and 
birthplace. Part of the description of the " words " 
corresponds to the fatal effect of Doeg's report ; but 
nothing in it answers to the other part — falsehood. 
The psalmist's hot indignation speaks in the triple, 
direct address to the tyrant, which comes in each case 
like a lightning flash at the end of a clause (vv. i, 2, 
4). In the second of these the epithet " framing 
deceit " does not refer to the " sharpened razor," but 
to the tyrant. If referred to the former, it weakens 
rather than strengthens the metaphor, by bringing in 
the idea that the sharp blade misses its proper aim 


and wounds cheeks instead of shearing off hair. The 
Selah of ver. 3 interrupts the description, in order to 
fix attention, by a pause filled up by music, on the 
hideous picture thus drawn. 

/That description is resumed and summarised in ver. 4, 
which, by the Selahs, is closely bound to ver. 5, in 
order to enforce the necessary connection of sin and 
punishment, which is strongly underlined by the 
" also " or ** so " at the beginning of the latter verse. 
The stern prophecy of destruction is based upon no 
outward signs of failure in the oppressor's might, but 
wholly on confidence in God's continual loving-kindness, 
which must needs assume attributes of justice when 
its objects are oppressed. A tone of triumph vibrates 
through the imagery of ver. 5, which is not in the same 
key as Christ has set for us.j 

It is easy for those who have never lived under 
grinding, godless tyranny to reprobate the exultation 
of the oppressed at the sweeping away of their 
oppressors ; but if the critics had seen their brethren 
set up as torches to light Nero's gardens, perhaps they 
would have known some thrill of righteous joy when 
they heard that he was dead. Three strong metaphors 
describe the fall of this tyrant. He is broken down, as 
a building levelled with the ground. He is laid hold 
of, as a coal in the fire, with tongs (for so the word 
means), and dragged, as in that iron grip, out of the 
midst of his dwelling. He is uprooted like a tree with 
all its pride of leafage. Another blast of trumpets or 
clang of harps or clash of cymbals bids the listeners 
gaze on the spectacle of insolent strength laid prone, 
and withering as it lies. 

The third movement of thought (vv. 6, 7) deals with 
the effects of this retribution. It is a conspicuous 

VOL. II. 10 

146 THE PSALMii 

demonstration of God's justice and of the folly of 
reliance on anything but Himself. The fear which it 
produces in the *' righteous " is reverential awe, not 
dread lest the same should happen to them. Whether 
or not history and experience teach evil men that 
" verily there is a God that judgeth," their lessons are 
not wasted on devout and righteous souls. But this 
is the tragedy of life, that its teachings are prized most 
by those who have already learned them, and that 
those who need them most consider them least. Other 
tyrants are glad when a rival is swept off the field, but 
are not arrested in their own course. It is left to ** the 
righteous " to draw the lesson which all men should 
have learned. Although they are pictured as laughing 
at the ruin, that is not the main effect of it. Rather 
it deepens conviction, and is a *' modern instance " wit- 
nessing to the continual truth of "an old saw." There 
is one safe stronghold, and only one. He who conceits 
himself to be strong in his own evil, and, instead of 
relying on God, trusts in material resources, will sooner 
or later be levelled with the ground, dragged, resisting 
vainly the tremendous grasp, from his tent, and laid 
prostrate, as melancholy a spectacle as a great tree 
blown down by tempest, with its roots turned up to 
the sky and its arms with drooping leaves trailing on 
the ground. 

A swift turn of feeling carries the singer to rejoice 
in the contrast of his own lot. No uprooting does he 
fear. It may be questioned whether the words "in 
the house of God " refer to the psalmist or to the olive 
tree. Apparently there were trees in the Temple area 
(Psalm xcii. 1 3) ; but the parallel in the next clause, " in 
the loving-kindness of God," points to the reference of 
the words to the speaker. Dwelling in enjoyment of 

Hi.] THE PSALMS 147 

God's fellowship, as symbolised by and realised through 
presence in the sanctuary, whether it were at Nob or in 
Jerusalem, he dreads no such forcible removal as had 
befallen the tyrant. Communion with God is the source 
of flourishing and fruitfulness, and the guarantee of 
its own continuance. Nothing in the changes of out- 
ward life need touch it. The mists which lay on the 
psalmist's horizon are cleared away for us, who know 
that " for ever and aye " designates a proper eternity of 
dwelling in the higher house and drinking the full dew 
of God's loving-kindness. Such consciousness of pre- 
sent blessedness in communion lifts a soul to prophetic 
realisation of deliverance, even while no change has 
occurred in circumstances. The tyrant is still boasting ; 
but the psalmist's tightened hold of God enables him 
to see " things that are not as though they were," and 
to anticipate actual deliverance by praise for it. It is 
the prerogative of faith to alter tenses, and to say, 
Thou hast done, when the world's grammar would say, 
Thou wilt do. " I will wait on Thy name " is singular, 
since what is done *' in the presence of Thy favoured 
ones " would naturally be something seen or heard by 
them. The reading " I will declare " has been sug- 
gested. But surely the attitude of patient, silent 
expectance implied in " wait " may very well be con- 
ceived as maintained in the presence of, and perceptible 
by, those who had like dispositions, and who would 
sympathise and be helped thereby. Individual blessings 
are rightly used when they lead to participation in 
common thankfulness and quiet trust. 


irThe fool says in his heart, There is no God 
They corrupt and make abominable their iniquity} 
There is no one doing good. 

2 God looketh down from heaven upon the sons of men, 

To see if there is any having discernment seeking after God. 

3 Each of them is turned aside; together they are become putrid ; 
There is no one doing good ; 

There is not even one.^ 

4 Do the workers of iniquity not know 

Who devour my people [as] they devour bread ? 
On God they do not call. 

5 There they feared a [great] fear, where no fear was: 

For God has scattered the bones of him that encamps against thee ; 
Thou hast put them to shame ; for God has rejected them, 

6 Oh that the salvations of Israel were come out of Zion 1 
When God brings back the captivity of His people, 
May Jacob exult, may Israel be glad 1 

IN this psalm we have an Elohistic recast of Psalm 
xiv., differing from its original in substituting 
Elohim for Jehovah (four times) and in the language 
of ver. 5. There are also other slight deviations not 
affecting the sense. For the exposition the reader is 
referred to that of Psalm xiv. It is only necessary 
here to take note of the divergences. 

^The first of these occurs in ver. i. The forcible 
rough construction " they corrupt, they make abomin- 
able," is smoothed down by the insertion of **a]|^d." 

* Italics show variations from text of Psalm xiv. 

liii.] THE PSALMS 149 

The editor apparently thought that the loosely piled 
words needed a piece of mortar to hold them together, 
but his emendation weakens as well as smooths. On 
the other hand, he has aimed at increased energy of 
expression by substituting " iniquity " for " doings " 
in the same clause, which results in tautology and is 
no improvement. In ver. 3 the word for "turned 
aside " is varied, without substantial difference of mean- 
ing. The alteration is very slight, affecting only one 
letter, and may be due to error in transcription or to 
mere desire to emend) In ver. 4 " all," which in 
Psalm xiv. precedes " workers of iniquity," is omitted, 
probably as unnecessary. 

The most important changes are in ver. 5> which 
stands for w. 5 and 6 of Psalm xiv. The first is the 
insertion of " where no fear was." These words may 
be taken as describing causeless panic, or, less pro- 
bably, as having a subjective reference, and being equal 
to " while in the midst of careless security." They 
evidently point to some fact, possibly the destruction 
of Sennacherib's army. Their insertion shows that the 
object of the alterations was to adapt an ancient psalm 
as a hymn of triumph for recent deliverance, thus alter- 
ing its application from evil-doers within Israel to 
enemies without. The same purpose is obvious in 
the transformations effected in the remainder of this 
verse. Considerable as these are, the recast most 
ingeniously conforms to the sound of the original. If 
we could present the two versions in tabular form, the 
resemblance would appear more strikingly than we can 
here bring it out. The first variation — i.e.y " scatters " 
instead of " in the generation " — is effected by reading 
** pizzar " for " b'dhor," a clear case of intentional 
assonance. Similarly the last word of the verse, " has 


rejected them/' is very near in consonants and sound 
to ** his refuge " in Psalm xiv. 6. The Uke effort at 
retaining the general sound of the earlier psalm runs 
through the whole verse. Very significantly the com- 
plaint of the former singer is turned into triumph by 
the later, who addresses the delivered Israel with ** Thou 
hast put them to shame," while the other psalm could 
but address the ** fools " with " Ye would put to shame 
the counsel of the afQicted." In like manner the tremu- 
lous hope of the original, " God is his refuge," swells 
into commemoration of an accomplished fact in " God 
has rejected them." The natural supposition is that 
some great deliverance of Israel had just taken place, 
and inspired this singular attempt to fit old words to 
new needs. Whatever the historical occasion may 
have been, the two singers unite in one final aspiration, 
a sigh of longing for the coming of Israel's full salva- 
tion, which is intensified in the recast by being put in 
the plural (" salvations ") instead of the singular, as in 
Psalm xiv., to express the completeness and manifold- 
ness of the deliverance thus yearned for of old, and not 
yet come in its perfection. 


i O God, by Thy name save me, 
And by Thy might right me. 

2 O God, hear my prayer ; 

Give ear to the words of my mouth* 

3 For strangers are risen up against me^ 
And violent men seek my soul : 
They set not God before them. Selah. 

4iBehold, God is a helper for me : 
The Lord is He that sustains my soul. 

5 He will requite evil to the Hers in wait for me t 
In Thy troth destroy them. 

6 Of [my own] free impulse will I sacrifice to Thee : 
I will thank Thy name, for it is good. 

7 For from all distress it has delivered me ; 

And my eye has seen [its desire] on my enemie^ 

THE tone and language of this psalm have nothmg 
special. The situation of the psalmist is the 
familiar one of being encompassed by enemies. His 
mood is the familiar one of discouragement at the sight 
of surrounding perils, which passes through petition into 
confidence and triumph. There is nothing in the psalm 
inconsistent with the accuracy of the superscription, 
which ascribes it to David, when the men of Ziph 
would have betrayed him to Saul. Internal evidence 
does not suffice to fix its date, if the traditional one 
is discarded. But there seems no necessity for re- 


garding the singer as the personified nation, though 
there is less objection to that theory in this instance 
than in some psahns with a more marked individuaUty 
and more fervent expression of personal emotion, to 
which it is proposed to apply it. 

The structure is simple, like the thought and expres- 
sion. The psalm falls into two parts, divided by Selah, 
— of which the former is prayer, spreading before God 
the suppliant's straits ; and the latter is confident assur- 
ance, blended with petition and vows of thanksgiving. 

The order in which the psalmist's thoughts run in 
the first part (vv. 1-3) is noteworthy. He begins with 
appeal to God, and summons before his vision the 
characteristics in the Divine nature on which he builds 
his hope. Then he pleads for the acceptance of his 
prayer, and only when thus heartened does he recount 
his perils. That is a deeper faith which begins with 
what God is, and thence proceeds to look calmly at 
foes, than that which is driven to God in the second 
place, as a consequence of an alarmed gaze on 
dangers. In the latter case fear strikes out a spark 
of faith in the darkness; in the former, faith controls 

The name of God is His manifested nature or 
character, the sum of all of Him which has been made 
known by His word or work. In that rich manifold- 
ness of living powers and splendours this man finds 
reserves of force, which will avail to save him from any 
peril. That name is much more than a collection of 
syllables. The expression is beginning to assume the 
meaning which it has in post-Biblical Hebrew, where 
it is used as a reverential euphemism for the ineffable 
Jehovah. Especially to God's power does the singer 
look with hopeful petitions, as in ver. i b. But the 

liv.] THE PSALMS 153 

whole name is the agent of his salvation. Nothing 
less than the whole fulness of the manifested God 
is enough for the necessities of one poor man ; and 
that prayer is not too bold, nor that estimate of need 
presumptuous, which asks for nothing less. Since it 
is God's " might " which is appealed to, to judge the 
psalmist's cause, the judgment contemplated is clearly 
not the Divine estimate of the moral desert of his doings, 
or retribution to him for these, but the vindication of 
his threatened innocence and deliverance of him from 
enemies. The reason for the prayer is likewise alleged 
as a plea with God to hear. The psalmist prays 
because he is ringed about by foes. God will hear 
because He is so surrounded. It is blessed to know 
that the same circumstances in our lot which drive us 
to God incline God to us. 

"Strangers," in ver. 3, would most naturally mean 
foreigners, but not necessarily so. The meaning would 
naturally pass into that of enemies — men who, even 
though of the psalmist's own blood, behave to him in a 
hostile manner. The word, then, does not negative the 
tradition in the superscription ; though the men of Ziph 
belonged to the tribe of Judah, they might still be called 
" strangers." The verse recurs in Psalm Ixxxvi. 14, with 
a variation of reading — namely, " proud " instead of 
''strangers." The same variation is found here in some 
MSS. and in the Targum. But probably it has crept in 
here in order to bring our psalm into correspondence with 
the other, and it is better to retain the existing reading, 
which is that of the LXX. and other ancient authorities. 
The psalmist has no doubt that to hunt after his life 
is a sign of godlessness. The proof that violent men 
have not ** set God before them " is the fact that they 
*' seek his soul." That is a remarkable assumption, 


resting upon a very sure confidence that he is in such 
relation to God that enmity to him is sin. The theory 
of a national reference would make such identification 
of the singer's cause with God's most intelligible. But 
the theory that he is an individual, holding a definite 
relation to the Divine purposes and being for some end 
a Divine instrument, would make it quite as much so. 
And if David, who knew that he was destined to be king, 
was the singer, his confidence would be natural. The 
history represents that his Divine appointment was 
sufficiently known to make hostility to him a manifest 
indication of rebellion against God. The unhesitating 
fusion of his own cause with God's could scarcely have 
been ventured by a psalmist, however vigorous his 
faith, if all that he had to go on and desired to express 
was a devout soul's confidence that God would pro- 
tect him. That may be perfectly true, and yet it may 
not follow that opposition to a man is godlessness. 
We cannot regard ourselves as standing in such a 
relation ; but we may be sure that the name, with all 
its glories, is mighty to save us too. 

Prayer is, as so often in the Psalter, followed by 
immediately deepened assurance of victory. The sup- 
pliant rises from his knees, and points the enemies 
round him to his one Helper. In ver. 4^ a hteral 
rendering would mislead. "The Lord is among the 
upholders of my soul " seems to bring God down to 
a level on which others stand. The psalmist does not 
mean this, but that God gathers up in Himself, and 
that supremely, the qualities belonging to the conception 
of an upholder. It is, in form, an inclusion of God in a 
certain class. It is, in meaning, the assertion that He 
is the only true representative of the class. Commen- 
tators quote Jephthah's plaintive words to his daughtei 

liv.] THE PSALMS I55 

as another instance of the idiom : " Alas, my daughter, 
. . . thou art one of them that trouble me " — i.e,^ my 
greatest troubler. That one thought, vivified into new 
power by the act of prayer, is the psalmist's all-sufficient 
buckler, which he plants between himself and his 
enemies, bidding them "behold." Strong in the con- 
fidence that has sprung in his heart anew, he can look 
forward in the certainty that his adversaries (lit. those 
who lie in wait for me) will find their evil recoiling on 
themselves. The reading of the Hebrew text is. Evil 
shall return to ; that of the Hebrew margin, adopted by 
the A.V. and R.V., is, He shall requite evil to. The 
meanings are substantially the same, only thai the one 
makes the automatic action of retribution more promi- 
nent, while the other emphasises Goa's justice in inflict- 
ing it. The latter reading gives increased force to the 
swift transition to prayer in ver. 5 b. 

That petition is, like others in similar psalms, proper 
to the spiritual level of the Old Testament, and not to 
that of the New ; and it is far more reverent, as well 
as accurate, to recognise fully the distinction than to 
try to slur it over. At the same time, it is not to be 
forgotten that the same lofty consciousness of the 
identity of his cause with God's, which we have already 
had to notice, operating here in these wishes for the 
enemies' destruction, gives another aspect to them than 
that of mere outbursts of private vengeance. That 
higher aspect is made prominent by the addition "in 
Thy troth." God's faithfulness to His purposes and 
promises was concerned in the destruction, because 
these were pledged to the psalmist's protection. His 
well-being was so intertwined with God's promises that 
the Divine faithfulness demanded the sweeping away 
of his foes. That is evidently not the language which 


fits our lips. It implies a special relation to God's 
plans, and it modifies the character of this apparently 
vindictive prayer. 

(The closing verses of this simple, little psalm touch 
very familiar notes. The faith which has prayed has 
grown so sure of answer that it already begins to think 
of the thank-offerings. This is not like the supersti- 
tious vow, " I will give so-and-so if Jupiter " — or the 
Virgin — ** will hear me." This praying man knows 
that he is heard, and is not so much vowing as joyfully 
anticipating his glad sacrifice.> The same incipient 
personification of the name as in ver. i is very pro- 
minent in the closing strains. Thank-offerings — not 
merely statutory and obligatory, but brought by free, 
uncommanded impulse — are to be offered to " Thy 
name," because that name is good. Ver. 7 probably 
should be taken as going even further in the same 
direction of personification, for " Thy name " is probably 
to be taken as the subject of " hath delivered." The 
tenses of the verbs in ver. 7 are perfects. They con- 
template the deliverance as already accomplished. 
Faith sees the future as present. This psalmist, 
surrounded by strangers seeking his life, can quietly 
stretch out a hand of faith, and bring near to himself 
the to-morrow when he will look back on scattered 
enemies and present, glad sacrifices ! That power of 
drawing a brighter future into a dark present belongs 
not to those who build anticipations on wishes, but 
to those who found their forecasts on God's known 
purpose and character. The name is a firm foundation 
for hope. There is no other. 

The closing words express confidence in the enemies* 
defeat and destruction, with a tinge of feehng that is 
not permissible to Christians. But the supplement, 

liv.] THE PSALMS 157 

** my desire," is perhaps rather too strongly expressive 
of wish for their ruin. Possibly there needs no sup- 
plement at all, and the expression simply paints the 
calm security of the man protected by God, who can 
" look upon " impotent hostility without the tremor of 
an eyelid, because he knows who is his Helper. 


1 Give ear, O God, to my prayer; 

And hide not Thyself from my entreaty, 

2 Attend unto me, and answer me : 

I am distracted as I muse, and must groan ; 

3 For the voice of [my] enemy. 

On account of the oppression of the wicked; 
For they fling down iniquity upon me, 
And in wrath they are hostile to me. 

4 My heart writhes within me : 

And terrors of death have fallen upon me. 

5 Fear and trembling come upon me, 
Horror wraps me round. 

6 Then I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove I 
I would fly away, and [there] abide. 

7 Lo, then would I migrate far away, 

I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah. 

8 I would hasten my escape 
From stormy wind and tempest 

\ 9 Swallow [them up], Lord ; confuse their tongue! 
For I see violence and strife in the city. 

10 Day and night they go their rounds upon her walls: 
And iniquity and mischief are in her midst. 

11 Destructions are in her midst: 

And from her open market-place depart not oppression and 

12 For it is not an enemy that reviles me — that I could bear : 

It is not my nater that magnifies himself against me — from him 
I could shelter myself: 

13 But it is thou, a man my equal. 

My companion, and my familiar friend. 


Iv.] THE PSALMS 159 

14 We who together used to make familiar intercourse sweet, 
And walked to the house of God with the crowd. 

15 Desolations [fall] on them 1 

May they go down alive to Sheol ! 

For wickednesses are in their dwelling, in their midst. 4 

16 As for me, I will cry to God ; 
And Jehovah will save me. 

17 Evening, and morning, and noon will I muse and groan: 
And He will hear my voice. 

18 He has redeemed my soul in peace, so that they come not near me 
For in great numbers were they round me. 

19 God will hear, and answer them — 

Even He that sitteth throned from of old — Selah. 
Them who have no changes 
And who fear not God. 

20 He has laid his hands on those who were at peace with him : 
He has broken his covenant. 

21 Smooth are the buttery words of his mouth, 
But his heart is war : 

Softer are his words than oil, 
Yet are they drawn swords. 

22 Cast upon Jehovah thy burden, 
And He, He will hold thee up : 

He will never let the righteous be moved. 

23 But Thou, O God, shall bring them down to the depth of the pit : 
Men of blood and deceit shall not attain half their days ; 

But as for me, I will trust in Thee. 

THE situation of the psalmist has a general corre- 
spondence with that of David in the period of 
Absalom's rebellion, and the identification of the 
traitorous friend with Ahithophel is naturally suggested. 
But there are considerable difficulties in the way of 
taking that view. The psalmist is evidently in the 
city, from which he longs to escape ; but Ahithophel's 
treachery was not known to David till after his flight. 
Would a king have described his counsellor, however 
trusted, as " a man my equal " ? The doubt respecting 
the identity of the traitor, however, does not seriously 


militate against the ordinary view of the date and 
occasion of the psalm, if we suppose that it belongs 
to the period immediately before the outburst of the 
conspiracy, when David was still in Jerusalem, but 
seeing the treason growing daily bolder, and already 
beginning to contemplate flight. The singularly pas- 
sive attitude which he maintained during the years of 
Absalom's plotting was due to his consciousness of guilt 
and his submission to punishment. Hitzig ascribes 
the psalm to Jeremiah, principally on the ground of the 
resemblance of the prophet's wish for a lodge in the 
wilderness (Jer. ix. 2) to the psalmist's yearning in 
w. 6-8. Cheyne brings it down to the Persian period ; 
Olshausen, to the Maccabean. The Davidic authorship 
has at least as much to say for itself as any of these 

The psalm may be regarded as divided into three 
parts, in each of which a different phase of agitated 
feeling predominates, but not exclusively. Strong 
excitement does not marshal emotions or their expres- 
sion according to artistic proprieties of sequence, and 
this psalm is all ablaze with it. That vehemence of 
emotion sufficiently accounts for both the occasional 
obscurities and the manifest want of strict accuracy in 
the flow of thought, without the assumption of dis- 
location of parts or piecing it with a fragment of 
another psalm. When the heart is writhing within, 
and tumultuous feelings are knocking at the door of 
the lips, the words will be troubled and heaped together, 
and dominant thoughts will repeat themselves in 
defiance of logical continuity. But, still, complaint and 
longing sound through the wailing, yearning notes of 
vv. 1-8 ; hot indignation and terrible imprecations in 
the stormy central portion (w. 9-15); and a calmer 

Iv.] THE PSALMS 161 

note of confidence and hope, through which, however, 
the former indignation surges up again, is audible in 
the closing verses (vv. 16-23). 

The psalmist pictures his emotions in the first part, 
with but one reference to their cause, and but one 
verse of petition. He begins, indeed, with asking 
that his prayer may be heard ; and it is well when a 
troubled heart can raise itself above the sea of troubles 
to stretch a hand towards God. Such an effort of 
faith already prophesies firm footing on the safe shore. 
But very pathetic and true to the experience of many 
a sorrowing heart is the psalmist's immediately subse- 
quent dilating on his griefs. There is a dumb sorrow, 
and there is one which unpacks its heart in many 
words and knows not when to stop. The psalmist is 
distracted in his bitter brooding on his troubles. The 
word means to move restlessly, and may either apply 
to body or mind, perhaps to both ; for Eastern demon- 
strativeness is not paralysed, but stimulated to bodily 
tokens, by sorrow. He can do nothing but groan or 
moan. His heart " writhes " in him. Like an avalanche, 
deadly terrors have fallen on him and crushed him. 
Fear and trembling have pierced into his inner being, 
and "horror" (a rare word, which the LXX. here 
renders darkness) wraps him round or covers him, 
as a cloak does. It is not so much the pressure of 
present evil, as the shuddering anticipation of a heavier 
storm about to burst, which is indicated by these 
pathetic expressions. The cause of them is stated in 
a single verse (3). *' The voice of the enemy " rather 
than his hand is mentioned first, since threats and 
reproaches precede assaults ; and it is budding, not full- 
blown, enmity which is in view. In ver. 3 3 " oppres- 
sion " is an imperfect parallelism with " voice," and the 



conjectural emendation (which only requires the pre- 
fixing of a letter) of " cries," adopted by Cheyne, after 
Olshausen and others, is tempting. They " fling down 
iniquity" on him as rocks are hurled or rolled from 
a height on invaders — a phrase which recalls David's 
words to his servants, urging flight before Absalom, 
"lest he bring down evil upon us." 

Then, from out of all this plaintive description of the 
psalmist's agitation and its causes, starts up that immortal 
strain which answers to the deepest longings of the 
soul, and has touched responsive chords in all whose 
lives are not hopelessly outward and superficial — the 
yearning for repose. It may be ignoble, or lofty and 
pure ; it may mean only cowardice or indolence ; but 
it is deepest in those who stand most unflinchingly at 
their posts, and crush it down at the command of duty. 
Unless a soul knows that yearning for a home in still- 
ness, "afar from the sphere of our sorrow," it will 
remain a stranger to many high and noble things. 
The psalmist was moved to utter this longing by his 
painful consciousness of encompassing evils; but the 
longing is more than a desire for exemption from these. 
It is the cry of the homeless soul, which, like the dove 
from the ark, finds no resting-place in a world full of 
carrion, and would fain return whence it came. "O 
God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and we are 
unquiet till we find rest in Thee." No obligation of 
duty keeps migratory birds in a land where winter is 
near. But men are better than birds, because they 
have other things to think of than repose, and must 
face, not flee, storms and hurricanes. It is better to 
have wings "like birds of tempest-loving kind," and to 
beat up against the wind, than to outfly it in retreat. 
So the psalmist's wish was but a wish ; and he, like the 

Iv.] THE PSALMS 163 

rest of us, had to stand to his post, or be tied to his 
stake, and let enemies and storms do their worst. The 
LXX. has a striking reading of ver. 8, which Cheyne 
has partially adopted. It reads for ver. 8 a** waiting for 
Him who saves me " ; but beautiful as this is, as giving 
the picture of the restful fugitive in patient expectation, 
it brings an entirely new idea into the picture, and 
blends metaphor and fact confusedly. The Selah at 
the close of ver. 7 deepens the sense of still repose by 
a prolonged instrumental interlude. 

(The second part turns from subjective feelings to 
objective facts. A cry for help and a yearning for a 
safe solitude were natural results of the former; but 
when the psalmist^s eye turns to his enemies, a flash 
of anger lights it, and, instead of the meek longings 
of the earlier verses, prayers for their destruction 
are vehemently poured out. The state of things in the 
city corresponds to what must have been the condition 
of Jerusalem during the incubation of Absalom's con- 
spiracy, but is sufficiently general to fit any time of 
strained party feeling. The caldron simmers, ready to 
boil over. The familiar evils, of which so many psalms 
complain, are in full vigour. The psalmist enumerates 
them with a wealth of words which indicates their 
abundance. Violence, strife, iniquity, mischief, oppres- 
sion, and deceit — a goodly company to patrol the streets 
and fill the open places of the cityl Ver. 10 a is 
sometimes taken as carrying on the personification 
of Violence and Strife in ver. 9, by painting these as 
going their rounds on the walls, like sentries ; but it is 
better to suppose that the actual foes are meant, and 
that they are keeping up a strict watch to prevent the 
psalmist's escape. 

Several commentators consider that the burst of 


indignation against the psalmist's traitorous friend in 
w. 12-14 interrupts the sequence, and propose re- 
arrangements by which w. 20, 21, will be united with 
vv. 12-14, and placed either before ver. 6 or after 
ver. 1 5. But the very abruptness with which the thought 
of the traitor is interjected here, and in the subsequent 
reference to him, indicates how the singer's heart was 
oppressed by the treason ; and the return to the subject 
in ver. 20 is equally significant of his absorbed and 
pained brooding on the bitter fact. That is a slight 
pain which is removed by one cry. Rooted griefs, over- 
whelming sorrows, demand many repetitions. Trouble 
finds ease in tautology. It is absurd to look for cool, 
logical sequence in such a heart's cry as this psalm. 
Smooth continuity would be most unnatural. The 
psalmist feels that the defection of his false friend is 
the worst blow of all. He could have braced himself 
to bear an enemy's reviling ; he could have found 
weapons to repel, or a shelter in which to escape from, 
open foes ; but the baseness which forgets all former 
sweet companionship in secret, and all association in 
public and in worship, is more than he can bear up 
against. The voice of wounded love is too plain in the 
words for the hypothesis that the singer is the per- 
sonified nation. Traitors are too common to allow of 
a very confident affirmation that the psalm must point to 
Ahithophel, and the description of the perfidious friend 
as the equal of the psalmist does not quite fit that 

As he thinks of all the sweetness of past intimacy, 
turned to gall by such dastardly treachery, his anger 
rises. The description of the city and of the one 
enemy in whom all its wickedness is, as it were, 
concentrated, is framed in a terrible circlet of prayers 

Iv.] THE PSALMS 165 

for the destruction of the foes. Ver. 9« begins and 
ver. 15 ends this part with petitions which do not 
breathe the spirit of " Father, forgive them." There 
may be a reference to the confusion of tongues at Babel 
in the prayer of ver. 9. As then the impious work 
was stopped by mutual unintelligibility, so the psalmist 
desires that his enemies' machinations may be paralysed 
in like manner. In ver. 15 the translation ** desolations" 
follows the Hebrew text, while the alternative and in 
some respects preferable reading " May death come sud- 
denly " follows the Hebrew marginal correction. There 
are difficulties in both, and the correction does not 
so much smooth the language as to be obviously an 
improvement. The general sense is clear, whichever 
reading is preferred. The psalmist is calling down 
destruction on his enemies ; and while the fact that he 
is in some manner an organ of the Divine purpose 
invests hostility to him with the darker character of 
rebelhon against God, and therefore modifies the 
personal element in the prayer, it still remains a plain 
instance of the lower level on which the Old Testament 
saints and singers stood, when compared with the 
** least in the kingdom of heaven." 

The third part of the psalm returns to gentler tones 
of devotion and trust. The great name of Jehovah 
appears here significantly. To that ever-living One, 
the Covenant God, will the psalmist cry, in assurance 
of answer. " Evening, and morning, and noon " desig- 
nate the whole day by its three principal divisions, and 
mean, in effect, continually. Happy are they who are 
impelled to unintermitting prayer by the sight of un- 
slumbering enmity I Enemies may go their rounds 
" day and night," but they will do little harm, if the 
poor, hunted man, whom they watch so closely, lifts 


his cries to Heaven " evening, and morning, and noon." 
The psalmist goes back to his first words. He had 
begun by saying that he was distracted as he mused, 
and could do nothing but groan, and in ver. 17 he 
repeats that he will still do so. Has he, then, won 
nothing by his prayer but the prolongation of his first 
dreary tone of feeling? He has won this — that his 
musing is not accompanied by distraction, and that 
his groaning is not involuntary expression of pain, 
but articulate prayer, and therefore accompanied by the 
confidence of being heard. Communion with God and 
prayerful trust in his help do not at once end sadness 
and sobbing, but do change their character and lighten 
the blackness of grief This psalmist, like so many of 
his fellows, realises deliverance before he experiences 
it, and can sing " He has redeemed my soul " even 
while the calamity lasts. " They come not near me," 
says he. A soul hidden in God has an invisible defence 
which repels assaults. As with a man in a diving-bell, 
the sea may press on the crystal walls, but cannot crush 
them in or enter, and there is safe, dry lodging inside, 
while sea billows and monsters are without, close to 
the diver and yet far from him. 

Ver. 19 is full of difficulty, and most probably has 
suffered some textual corruption. To " hear and 
answer " is uniformly an expression for gracious hearing 
and beneficent answering. Here it can only mean the 
opposite, or must be used ironically. God will hear 
the enemies* threats, and will requite them. Various 
expedients have been suggested for removing the 
difficulty. It has been proposed to read " me " for 
" them," which would bring everything into order — only 
that, then, the last clauses of the verse, which begin 
with a relative (''who have no changes," etc.), would 

Iv.] THE PSALMS 167 

want an antecedent. It has been proposed to read 
** will humble them " for " will answer them," which 
is the LXX. translation. That requires a change 
in the vowels of the verb, and "answer" is more 
probable than " humble " after " hear." Cheyne 
follows Olshausen in supposing that '* the cry of the 
afflicted " has dropped out after " hear." The con- 
struction of ver. igb is anomalous, as the clause 
is introduced by a superfluous " and," which may 
be a copyist's error. The Selah attached is no less 
anomalous. It is especially difficult to explain, in 
view of the relative which begins the third clause, 
and which would otherwise be naturally brought into 
close connection with the ^* them," the objects of the 
verbs in a. These considerations lead Hupfeld to 
regard ver. 19 as properly ending with Selah, and 
the remaining clauses as out of place, and properly 
belonging to ver. 15 or 18; while Cheyne regards 
the alternative supposition that they are a fragment of 
another psalm as possible. There is probably some 
considerable corruption of the text, not now to be 
remedied ; but the existing reading is at least capable 
of explanation and defence. The principal difficulty in 
the latter part of ver. 19 is the meaning of the word 
rendered " changes." The persons spoken of are those 
whom God will hear and answer in His judicial cha- 
racter, in which He has been throned from of old. 
Their not having " changes " is closely connected with 
their not fearing God. The word is elsewhere used 
for changes of raiment, or for the relief of military 
guards. Calvin and others take the changes intended 
to be vicissitudes of fortune, and hence draw the true 
thought that unbroken prosperity tends to forgetfulness 
of God. Others take the changes to be those of mind 


or conduct from evil to good, while others fell back 
upon the metaphor of relieving guard, which they con- 
nect with the picture in ver. lo of the patrols on the 
walls, so getting the meaning '* they have no cessation 
in their wicked watchfulness." It must be acknow- 
ledged that none of these meanings is quite satisfactory ; 
but probably the first, which expresses the familiar 
thought of the godlessness attendant on uninterrupted 
prosperity, is best. 

Then follows another reference to the traitorous 
friend, which, by its very abruptness, declares how 
deep is the wound he has inflicted. The psalmist does 
not stand alone. He classes with himself those who 
remained faithful to him. The traitor has not yet 
thrown off his mask, though the psalmist has penetrated 
his still retained disguise. He comes with smooth 
words; but, in the vigorous language of ver. 21, "his 
heart is war." The fawning softness of words known 
to be false cuts into the heart, which had trusted 
and knows itself betrayed, more sharply than keen 

Ver. 22 has been singularly taken as the smooth 
words which cut so deep ; but surely that is a very 
strained interpretation. Much rather does the psalmist 
exhort himself and all who have the same bitterness 
to taste, to commit themselves to Jehovah. What is 
it which he exhorts us to cast on Him ? The word 
employed is used here only, and its meaning is therefore 
questionable. The LXX. and others translate " care." 
Others, relying on Talmudical usage, prefer *' burden," 
which is appropriate to the following promise of being 
held erect. Others (Hupfeld, etc.) would read "that 
which He has given thee." The general sense is clear, 
and the faith expressed in both exhortation and 

Iv.] THE PSALMS 169 

appended promise has been won by the singer through 
his prayer. He is counselling and encouraging himself. 
The spirit has to spur the ** soul " to heroisms of faith 
and patience. He is declaring a universal truth. How- 
ever crushing our loads of duty or of sorrow, we 
receive strength to carry them with straight backs, 
if we cast them on Jehovah. The promise is not that 
He will take away the pressure, but that He will hold 
us up under it ; and, similarly, the last clause declares 
that the righteous will not be allowed to stumble. 
Faith is mentioned before righteousness. The two 
must go together ; for trust which is not accompanied 
and manifested by righteousness is no true trust, and 
righteousness which is not grounded in trust is no 
stable or real righteousness. 

The last verse sums up the diverse fates of the 
" men of blood and deceit " and of the psalmist. The 
terrible prayers of the middle portion of the psalm 
have wrought the assurance of their fulfilment, just 
as the cries of faith have brought the certainty of 
theirs. So the two closing verses of the psalm turn 
both parts of the earlier petitions into prophecies ; and 
over against the trustful, righteous psalmist, standing 
erect and unmoved, there is set the picture of the 
" man of blood and deceit," chased down the black 
slopes to the depths of destruction by the same God 
whose hand holds up the man that trusts in Him. 
It is a dreadful contrast, and the spirit of the whole 
psalm is gathered into it. The last clause of all makes 
" I " emphatic. It expresses the final resolution which 
springs in the singer's heart in view of that dread 
picture of destruction and those assurances of support. 
He recoils from the edge of the pit, and eagerly opens 
his bosom for the promised blessing. Well for us 


if the upshot of all our meditations on the painful 
riddle of this unintelligible world, and of all our burdens 
and of all our experiences and of our observation of 
other men's careers, is the absolute determination, " As 
for me, I will trust in Jehovah 1 " 


I I Be gracious to me, O God ; for man would swallow me up : 

All day the fighting oppresses me. 

2 My liers-in-wait would swallow me up all the day: 
For many proudly fight against me. 

3 [In] the day [when] I fear, 
I will trust in Thee. 

4 In God do I praise His word ; 
In God do I trust, I will not fear; 
What can flesh do to me ? * 

5 All day they wrest my words ; 

All their thoughts are against me for evil. 

6 They gather together, they set spiesy 
They mark my steps, 

Even as they have waited for my soul. 

7 Shall there be escape for them because of iniquity? 
In anger cast down the peoples, O God. 

8 My wanderings hast Thou reckoned : 
Put Thou my tears into Thy bottle ; 
Are they not in Thy reckoning ? 

9 Then shall my enemies turn back in the day [when] I call: 
This I know, that God is for me (or mine). 

10 In God will I praise the word : 

In Jehovah will I praise the word. 

11 In God have I trusted, I will not not fear; 
What can man do to me ? 

12 Upon me, O God, are Thy vows: 
I will requite praises to Thee. 

13 For Thou hast delivered my soul from death: 
Hast Thou not delivered my feet from stumbling? 
That I may walk before God in the light of the living. 

THE superscription dates this psalm from the time 
of David's being in Gath. Probably his first stay 
there is meant, during which he had recourse to 



feigned insanity in order to secure his safety. What a 
contrast between the seeming idiot scrabbling on the 
walls and the saintly singer of this lovely song of 
purest trust I But striking as the contrast is, it is not 
too violent to be possible. Such heroic faith might lie 
very near such employment of pardonable dissimula- 
tion, even if the two moods of feeling can scarcely 
have been contemporaneous. Swift transitions charac- 
terise the poetic temperament ; and, alas ! fluctuations 
of courage and faith characterise the devout soul. 
Nothing in the psalm specially suggests the date 
assigned in the superscription ; but, as we have already 
had occasion to remark, that may be an argument for, 
not against, the correctness of the superscription. 

The psalm is simple in structure. Like others 
ascribed to David during the Sauline period, it has a 
refrain, which divides it into two parts ; but these are 
of substantially the same purport, with the difference 
that the second part enlarges the description of the 
enemies* assaults, and rises to confident anticipation of 
their defeat. In that confidence the singer adds a 
closing expression of thankfulness for the deliverance 
already realised in faith. 

(The first part begins with that significant contrast 
which is the basis of all peaceful fronting of a hostile 
world or any evil. On one side stands man, whose 
very name here suggests feebleness, and on the other 
is God. " Man " in ver. i is plainly a collective. The 
psalmist masses the foes, whom he afterwards indivi- 
dualises and knows only too well to be a multitude, 
under that generic appellation, which brings out their 
inherent frailty. Be they ever so many, still they all 
belong to the same class, and an infinite number of 
nothings only sums up into nothing. The Divine Unit 


is more than all these. The enemy is said to " pant 
after" the psalmist, as a wild beast open-mouthed and 
ready to devour; or, according to others, the word 
means to crush.) The thing meant by the strong 
metaphor is given in ver. \b. 2\ namely, the continual 
hostile activity of the foe. The word rendered 
** proudly " is literally " on high," and Baethgen 
suggests that the literal meaning should be retained. 
He supposes that the antagonists ** held an influential 
position in a princely court." Even more literally the 
word may describe the enemies as occupying a post of 
vantage, from which they shower down missiles. 

One brief verse, the brevity of which gives it em- 
phasis, tells of the singer's fears, and of how he 
silences them by the dead lift of effort by which he 
constrains himself to trust. It is a strangely shallow 
view which finds a contradiction in this utterance, 
which all hearts, that have ever won calmness in agita- 
tion and security amid encompassing dangers by the 
same means, know to correspond to their own experi- 
ence. If there is no fear, there is little trust. The two 
do co-exist. The eye that takes in only visible facts 
on the earthly level supplies the heart with abundant 
reasons for fear. But it rests with ourselves whether 
we shall yield to those, or whether, by lifting our eyes 
higher and fixing the vision on the Unseen and on 
Him who is invisible, we shall call such an ally to our 
side as shall make fear and doubt impossible. We 
have little power of directly controlling fear or any 
other feeling, but we can determine the objects on 
which we shall fix attention. If we choose to look at 
** man," we shall be unreasonable if we do not fear ; if 
we choose to look at God, we shall be more unreason- 
able if we do not trust. The one antagonist of fear is 


faith. Trust is a voluntary action for which we are 

The frequent use of the phrase " In the day when " 
is noticeable. It occurs in each verse of the first part, 
excepting the refrain. The antagonists are continually 
at work, and the psalmist, on his part, strives to meet 
their machinations and to subdue his own fears with 
as continuous a faith. The phrase recurs in the second 
part in a similar connection. Thus, then, the situation 
as set forth in the first part has three elements, — the 
busy malice of the foes ; the effort of the psalmist, his 
only weapon against them, to hold fast his confidence ; 
and the power and majesty of God, who will be 
gracious when besought. The refrain gathers up 
these three in a significantly different order. The 
preceding verses arranged them thus — God, man, the 
trusting singer. The refrain puts them thus — God, 
the trusting singer, man. When the close union 
between a soul and God is clearly seen and inwardly 
felt, the importance of the enemies dwindles. When 
faith is in the act of springing up, God, the refuge, and 
man, the source of apprehension, stand over against 
each other, and the suppliant, looking on both, draws 
near to God. But when faith has fruited, the believing 
soul is coupled so closely to the Divine Object of its 
faith, that He and it are contemplated as joined in 
blessed reciprocity of protection and trust, and enemies 
are in an outer region, where they cannot disturb its 
intercourse with its God. The order of thought in 
the refrain is also striking. First, the singer praises 
God's word. By God's gracious help he knows that 
he will receive the fulfilment of God's promises (not 
necessarily any special "word," such as the promise 
of a throne to David). And then, on the experience of 


God's faithfulness thus won, is reared a further structure 
of trust, which completely subdues fear. This is the 
reward of the effort after faith which the psalmist 
made. He who begins with determining not to fear 
will get such tokens of God's troth that fear will melt 
away like a cloud, and he will find his sky cleared, 
as the nightly heavens are swept free of cloud-rack by 
the meek moonlight. 

The second part covers the same ground. Trust, 
like love, never finds it grievous to write the same 
things. There is delight, and there is strengthening 
for the temper of faith, in repeating the contemplation 
of the earthly facts which make it necessary, and the 
super-sensuous facts which make it blessed. A certain 
expansion of the various parts of the theme, as com- 
pared with the first portion of the psalm, is obvious. 
Again the phrase "all the day" occurs in reference 
to the unwearying hostility which dogs the singer. 
'* They wrest my words " may be, as Cheyne prefers, 
" They torture me with words." That rendering would 
supply a standing feature of the class of psalms to 
which this belongs. The furtive assembling, the 
stealthy setting of spies who watch his steps (lit. 
heelsy as ready to spring on him from behind), are no 
new things, but are in accordance with what has long 
been the enemies' practice. 

Ver. 7 brings in a new element not found in the 
first part — namely, the prayer for the destruction of 
these unwearied watchers. Its first clause is obscure. 
If the present text is adhered to, the rendering of 
the clause as a question is best. A suggested textual 
correction has been largely adopted by recent com- 
mentators, which by a very slight alteration gives the 
meaning " For their iniquity requite them." The 


alteration, however, is not necessary, and the existing 
text may be retained, though the phrase is singular. 
The introduction of a prayer for a world-wide judg- 
ment in the midst of so intensely individual a psalm 
is remarkable, and favours the theory that the afflicted 
man of the psalm is really the nation ; but it may be 
explained on the ground that, as in Psalm vii. 8, the 
judgment on behalf of one man is contemplated as 
only one smaller manifestation of the same judicial 
activity which brings about the universal judgment. 
This single reference to the theme which fills so con- 
siderable a part of the other psalms of this class is in 
harmony with the whole tone of this gem of quiet 
faith, which is too much occupied with the blessedness 
of its own trust to have many thoughts of the end 
of others. It passes, therefore, quickly, to dwell on 
yet another phase of that blessedness. 

The tender words of ver. 8 need little elucidation. 
They have brought comfort to many, and have helped 
to dry many tears. How the psalmist presses close 
to God, and how sure he is of His gentle care and 
love I " Thou reckonest my wandering." The thought 
is remarkable, both in its realisation of God's in- 
dividualising relation to the soul that trusts Him, and 
as in some degree favouring the Davidic author- 
ship. The hunted fugitive feels that every step of his 
weary interlacing tracks, as he stole from point to 
point as danger dictated, was known to God. The 
second clause of the verse is thought by prosaic com- 
mentators to interrupt the sequence, because it inter- 
jects a petition between two statements; but surely 
nothing is more natural than such an '* interruption." 
What a lovely figure is that of God's treasuring up 
His servants' tears in His " bottle," the skin in which 

Ivi.] THE PSALMS 177 

liquids were kept I What does He keep them for ? 
To show how precious they are in His sight, and 
perhaps to suggest that they are preserved for a 
future use. The tears that His children shed and 
give to Him to keep cannot be tears of rebellious or 
unmeasured weeping, and will be given back one day 
to those who shed them, converted into refreshment, 
by the same Power which of old turned water into 

•* Think not thou canst weep a tear. 
And thy Maker is not near." 

Not only in order to minister retribution to those who 
inflicted them, but also in order to give recompense 
of gladness to weepers, are these tears preserved by 
God ; and the same idea is repeated by the other 
metaphor of ver. 8 c. God's book, or reckoning, con- 
tains the count of all the tears as well as wanderings 
of His servant. The certainty that it is so is ex- 
pressed by the interrogative form of the clause. 

The " then " of ver. 9 may be either temporal or 
logical. It may mean " things being so," or " in 
consequence of this," or it may mean "at the time 
when," and may refer to the further specification of 
period in the next clause. That same day which 
has already been designated as that of the enemies' 
panting after the psalmist's life, and wresting of his 
words, and, on the other hand, as that of his fear, 
is now the time of his prayer, and consequently 
of their defeat and flight. The confidence which 
struggled with fear in the closing words of the first 
part, is now consolidated into certain knowledge that 
God is on the singer's side, and in a very deep sense 
belongs to him. This is the foundation of his hope 

VOL. II. 12 


of deliverance ; and in this clear knowledge he chants 
once more his refrain. As is often the case, slight 
differences, mainly due to artistic love of variety in 
uniformity, occur in the repeated refrain. **Word" 
stands instead of ** His word " ; ** man," instead of 
** flesh " ; and a line is intercalated, in which Jehovah 
is substituted for God. The addition may be a later 
interpolation, but is probably part of the original text, 
and due to the same intelligible motives which 
prompted the occasional use of the great Covenant 
Name in the Elohistic psalms of this second book. 

The psalmist's exuberant confidence overflows the 
limits of his song, in a closing couple of verses which 
are outside its scheme. So sure is he of deliverance, 
that, as often in similar psalms, his thoughts are 
busied in preparing his sacrifice of thanks before the 
actual advent of the mercy for which it is to be offered. 
Such swift-footed Gratitude is the daughter of very 
vivid Faith. The ground of the thankoffering is de- 
liverance of " the soul," for which foes have *' waited." 
" Thou hast delivered " is a perfect tense expressing 
confidence in the certainty of the as yet unrealised 
exercise of God's power. The question of ver. 13^, like 
that of ver. 8 c (and perhaps that of ver. 7 a), is an 
emphatic affirmation, and the verb to be supplied is not 
" Wilt thou ? " as the A.V. has it, but, as is plain from 
the context, and from the quotation of this verse in 
Psalm cxvi. 8, " Hast thou ? " The Divine deliverance 
is complete, — not only doing the greater, but also the 
less ; and not barely saving life, but sustaining the steps. 
God does not rescue by halves, either in the natural or 
spiritual realm ; but in the former He first rescues and 
next preserves, and in the latter He delivers from the 
true death of the spirit, and then inspires to glad 

Ivi.] THE PSALMS 179 

obedience. The psalm crowns its celebration of God's 
miracles of deliverance by declaring the aim of them 
all to be that their recipient may walk before God — 
i.e.f in continual consciousness of His cognisance of his 
deeds, and " in the light of the living " or " of life." 
The expression seems here to mean simply the present 
life, as contrasted with the darkness and inactivity of 
Sheol ; but we can scarcely help remembering the 
deeper meaning given to it by Him who said that to 
follow Him was to have the light of life. Whether 
any dim foreboding of a better light than streams from 
even an Eastern sun, and of a truer life than the vain 
shadow which men call by that august name, floated 
before the singer or not, we can thankfully interpret 
his words, so as to make them the utterance of the 
Christian consciousness that the ultimate design of all 
God's deliverances of souls from death and of feet 
from falling is that, not only in ways of holiness here, 
but in the more perfect consciousness of His greater 
nearness hereafter, and in correspondingly increased 
perfectness of active service, we should walk before 
God in the light of the living. 


1 Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me ; 
For in Thee has my soul taken refuge : 

And in the shadow of Thy wings will I take refuge^ 
Until the [tempest of] destructions is gone by, 

2 I will cry to God Most High ; 

To God who accomplishes for me. 

3 He will send from heaven, and save me ; 

[For] He that would swallow me up blasphemes. Selah. 
God shall send His Loving-kindness and His Troth. 
/4 My soul is among lions ; 

I must lie down among those who breathe out fire- 
Sons of men, whose teeth are spear and arrows, 
Their tongue a sharp sword. 

5 Exalt Thyself above the heavens, O God^^ 
Above all the earth Thy glory. 

6 A net have they prepared for my steps; 
They have bowed down my soul : 
They have digged before me a pit; 

They have fallen into the midst of it. Selah. 

7 Steadfast is my heart, O God, steadfast is my heart! 
I will sing and harp. 

8 Awake, my glory ; awake, harp and lute : 
I will wake the dawn. 

9 I will give Thee thanks among the peoples, O Lord ; 
I will harp to Thee among the nations. 

10 For great unto the heavens is Thy Loving-kindness, 
And unto the clouds Thy Troth. 

11 Exalt Thyself above the heavens, O God, 
Above all the earth Thy glory. 

THIS psalm resembles the preceding in the singer's 
circumstances of peril and in his bold faith. It 
has also points of contact in the cry, " Be gracious/' 


Ivii.] THE PSALMS l8i 

and in the remarkable expression for enemies, " Those 
that would swallow me up." It has also several 
features in common with the other psalms ascribed by 
the superscriptions to the time of the Sauline perse- 
cution. Like Psalm vii. are the metaphor of lions for 
enemies, that of digging a pit for their plots, the use 
of glory as a synonym for soul. The difficult word 
rendered " destructions " in ver. i connects this psalm 
with Psalm Iv. ii, dated as belonging to the time of 
Saul's hostility, and with Psalms v. 9 and xxxviii. 12, 
both traditionally Davidic. There is nothing in the 
psalm against the attribution of it to David in the cave, 
whether of Adullam or Engedi, and the allusions to 
lying down among lions may possibly have been sug- 
gested by the wild beasts prowling round the psalmist's 
shelter. The use in ver. i of the picturesque word 
for taking refuge derives special appropriateness from 
the circumstances of the fugitive, over whose else 
defenceless head the sides of his cave arched them- 
selves like great wings, beneath which he lay safe, 
though the growls of beasts of prey echoed round. 
But there is no need to seek for further certainty as to 
the occasion of the psalm. Baethgen thinks that it can 
only have been composed after ** the annihilation of 
the independence of the Israelite state," because the 
vow in ver. 9 to make God's name known among the 
nations can only be the utterance of the oppressed 
congregation, which is sure of deliverance, because it is 
conscious of its Divine call to sing God's praise to 
heathens. But that vow is equally explicable on the 
assumption that the individual singer was conscious of 
such a call. 

There is no very sharp division of parts in the psalm. 
A grand refrain separates it into two portions, in the 


former of which prayer for deUverance and contem- 
plation of dangers prevail, while in the latter the foe 
is beheld as already baffled, and exuberant praise is 
poured forth and vowed. 

As in Psalm liv. and often, the first part begins with 
an act of faith reaching out to God, and strengthening 
itself by the contemplation of His character and acts. 
That energy of confidence wins assurance of help, and 
only after that calming certitude has filled the soul 
does the psalmist turn his eye directly on his enemies. 
His faith does not make him oblivious of his danger, 
but it minimises his dread. An eye that has seen God 
sees little terror in the most terrible things. 

The psalmist knows that a soul which trusts has a 
right to God's gracious dealings, and he is not afraid to 
urge his confidence as a plea with God. The boldness 
of the plea is not less indicative of the depth and purity 
of his religious experience than are the tender meta- 
phors in which it is expressed. What truer or richer 
description of trust could be given than that which 
likens it to the act of a fugitive betaking himself to 
the shelter of some mountain fastness, impregnable and 
inaccessible ? What lovelier thought of the safe, warm 
hiding-place which God affords was ever spoken than 
that of " the shadow of Thy wings " ? Very significant 
is the recurrence of the same verb in two different 
tenses in two successive clauses (i ^, c). The psalmist 
heartens himself for present and future trust by 
remembrance of past days, when he exercised it and 
was not put to shame. That faith is blessed, and cannot 
but be strong, which is nurtured by the remembrance 
of past acts of rewarded faith, as the leaves of bygone 
summers make rich mould for a new generation of 
flowers. When kites are in the sky, young birds seek 

Ivii.] THE PSALMS 183 

protection from the mother's wing as well as warmth 
from her breast. So the singer betakes himself to his 
shelter till ^* destructions are gone by." Possibly these 
are likened to a wild storm which sweeps across the 
land, but is not felt in the stillness of the cave fortress. 
Hidden in God, a man "heareth not the loud winds 
when they call," and may solace himself in the midst of 
their roar by the thought that they will soon blow over. 
He will not cease to take refuge in God when the stress 
is past, nor throw off his cloak when the rain ceases ; 
but he will nestle close while it lasts, and have as his 
reward the clear certainty of its transiency. The faith 
which clings to God after the tempest is no less close 
than that which screened itself in Him while it raged. 

Hidden in his shelter, the psalmist, in ver. 2, tells 
himself the grounds on which he may be sure that his 
cry to God will not be in vain. His name is " Most 
High," and His elevation is the pledge of His irresistible 
might. He is the "God" (the Strong) who accom- 
plishes all for the psalmist which he needs, and His 
past manifestations in that character make His future 
interventions certain. Therefore the singer is sure of 
what will happen. Two bright angels — Loving-kind- 
ness and Troth or Faithfulness their names — will be 
despatched from heaven for the rescue of the man who 
has trusted. That is certain, because of what God is 
and has done. It is no less certain, because of what 
the psalmist is and has done ; for a soul that gazes on 
God as its sole Helper, and has pressed, in its feeble- 
ness, close beneath these mighty pinions, cannot but 
bring down angel helpers, the executants of God's love. 

The confidence expressed in ver. 2 is interrupted 
by an abrupt glance at the enemy. "He that would 
swallow me up blasphemes" is the most probable 


rendering of a difficult phrase, the meaning and con- 
nection of which are both dubious. If it is so rendered, 
the connection is probably that which we have ex- 
pressed in the translation by inserting " For." The 
wish to destroy the psalmist is itself blasphemy, or is 
accompanied with blasphemy; and therefore God will 
surely send down what will bring it to nought. The 
same identification of his own cause with God's, which 
marks many of the psalms ascribed to the persecuted 
David, underlies this sudden reference to the enemy, 
and warrants the conclusion drawn, that help will come. 
The Selah at the end of the clause is unusual in the 
middle of a verse ; but it may be intended to underscore, 
as it were, the impiety of the enemy, and so corresponds 
with the other Selah in ver. 6, which is also in an un- 
usual place, and points attention to the enemy's ruin, 
as this does to his wickedness. 

(The description of the psalmist's circumstances in 
ver. 4 presents considerable difficulty. The division 
of clauses, the force of the form of the verb rendered 
/ must lie downy and the meaning and construction of 
the word rendered " those who breathe out fire," are all 
questionable. If the accents are adhered to, the first 
clause of the verse is " My soul is among lions." That is 
by some — e.g.y Delitzsch — regarded as literal description 
of the psalmist's environment, but it is more natural to 
suppose that he is applying a familiar metaphor to his 
enemies. In v. 4 ^ the verb rendered above " I must 
lie down " is in a form which has usually a cohortative or 
optative force, and is by some supposed to have that 
meaning here, and to express trust which is willing to 
lie down even in a lion's den. It seems, however, here 
to denote objective necessity rather than subjective 
willingness.\ Hupfeld would read lies down (third 

Ivii.] THE PSALMS 185 

person), thus making " My soul " the subject of the 
verb, and getting rid of the difficult optative form. 
Cheyne suggests a further slight alteration in the v^ord, 
so as to read, " My soul hath dwelt " — a phrase found 
in Psalm cxx. 6 ; and this emendation is tempting. The 
word rendered '* those who breathe out fire " is by some 
taken to mean ** those who devour," and is variously 
construed, as referring to the lions in a, taken literally, 
or as describing the sons of men in c. The general 
drift of the verse is clear. The psalmist is surrounded 
by enemies, whom he compares, as the Davidic psalms 
habitually do, to wild beasts. They are ready to rend. 
Open-mouthed they seem to breathe out flames, and 
their slanders cut like swords. 

The psalmist's contemplation of his forlorn lair among 
men worse than beasts of prey drives him back to 
realise again his refuge in God. He, as it were, 
wrenches his mind round to look at God rather than at 
the enemies. Clear perception of peril and weakness 
does its best work, when it drives to as clear recognition 
of God's help, and wings faithful prayer. The psalmist, 
in his noble refrain, has passed beyond the purely 
personal aspect of the desired deliverance, and wishes 
not only that he may be shielded from his foes, but 
that God would, in that deliverance, manifest Himself 
in His elevation above and power over all created 
things. To conceive of his experience as thus contri- 
buting to God's world-wide glory seems presumptuous ; 
but even apart from the consideration that the psalmist 
was conscious of a world-wide mission, the lowliest 
suppliant has a right to feel that his deliverance will 
enhance the lustre of that Glory; and the lowlier he 
feels himself, the more wonderful is its manifestations 
in Ws well-being. But if there is a strange note in the 


apparent audacity of this identification, there is a deep 
one of self-suppression in the fading from the psalmist's 
prayer of all mention of himself, and the exclusive con- 
templation of the effects on the manifestation of God's 
character, which may follow his deliverance. It is a 
rare and lofty attainment to regard one's own well-being 
mainly in its connection with God's "glory," and to 
desire the latter more consciously and deeply than the 

It has been proposed by Hupfeld to transpose vv. 5, 6, 
on the ground that a recurrence to the description of 
dangers is out of place after the refrain, and incon- 
gruous with the tone of the second part of the psalm. 
But do the psalmists observe such accuracy in the flow 
of their emotions ? and is it not natural for a highly 
emotional lyric like this to allow some surge of feeling 
to run over its barriers ? The reference to the enemies 
in ver. 6 is of a triumphant sort, which naturally pre- 
pares for the burst of praise following, and worthily 
follows even the lyrical elevation of the refrain. The 
perfects seem at first sight to refer to past deliverances, 
which the psalmist recalls in order to assure himself of 
future ones. But this retrospective reference is not 
necessary, and the whole description in ver. 6 is rather 
to be taken as that of approaching retribution on the 
foes, which is so certain to come that the singer cele- 
brates it as already as good as done. The familiar 
figures of the net and pit, by both of which wild animals 
are caught, and the as familiar picture of the hunter 
trapped in his own pitfall, need no elucidation. There is 
a grim irony of events, which often seems to delight in 
showing " the engineer hoised with his own petard " ; 
and whether that spectacle is forthcoming or not, the 
automatic effects of wrongdoing always follow, and no 

Ivii.] THE PSALMS 187 

man digs pits for others but somehow and somewhen he 
finds himself at the bottom of them, and his net wrapped 
round his own limbs. The Selah at the end of ver. 6 
calls spectators to gather, as it were, round the sight 
of the ensnared plotter, lying helpless down there. A 
slight correction of the text does away with a difficulty 
in ver. 6 b. The verb there is transitive, and in the 
existing text is in the singular, but ** He has bowed 
down my soul " would be awkward, though not impos- 
sible, when coming between two clauses in which the 
enemies are spoken of in the plural. The emendation 
of the verb to the third person plural by the addition 
of a letter brings the clauses into line, and retains the 
usual force of the verb. 

The psalmist has done with the enemies ; they are 
at the bottom of the pit. In full confidence of triumph 
and deliverance, he breaks out into a grand burst of 
praise. ** My heart is fixed," or " steadfast." Twice 
the psalmist repeats this, as he does other emphatic 
thoughts, in this psalm {cp. w. 2, 4, 8, 9). What 
power can steady that fluttering, wayward, agitated 
thing, a human heart ? The way to keep light articles 
fixed on deck, amidst rolling seas and howling winds, is 
to lash them to something fixed ; and the way to steady 
a heart is to bind it to God. Built into the Rock, the 
building partakes of the steadfastness of its foundation. 
Knit to God, a heart is firm. The psalmist's was stead- 
fast because it had taken refuge in God ; and so, even 
before his rescue from his enemies came to pass, he 
was emancipated from the fear of them, and could lift 
this song of praise. He had said that he must lie down 
among lions. But wherever his bed may be, he is sure 
that he will rise from it ; and however dark the night, 
he is sure that a morning will come. In a bold and 


beautiful figure he says that he will " wake the dawn " 
with his song. 

The world-wide destination of his praise is clear to 
him. It is plain that such anticipations as those of 
ver. 9 surpass the ordinary poetic consciousness, and 
must be accounted for on some special ground. The 
favourite explanation at present is that the singer is 
Israel, conscious of its mission. The old explanation 
that the singer is a king, conscious of his inspiration 
and divinely given office, equally meets the case 

The psalmist had declared his trust that God would 
send out His angels of Loving-kindness and Troth. He 
ends his song with the conviction, which has become 
to him matter of experience, that these Divine "at- 
tributes " tower to heaven, and in their height symbolise 
their own infinitude. Nor is the other truth suggested 
by ver. lo to be passed over, that the manifestation of 
these attributes on earth leads to their being more 
gloriously visible in heaven. These two angels, who 
come forth from on high to do God's errands for His 
poor, trusting servant, go back, their work done, and 
are hailed as victors by the celestial inhabitants. By 
God's manifestation of these attributes to a man. His 
glory is exalted above the heavens and all the earth. 
The same thought is more definitely expressed in Paul's 
declaration that "to the principalities and powers in 
heavenly places is known by the Church the manifold 
wisdom of God." 


1 Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O ye godsT 
In uprightness do ye judge the sons of men ? 

2 Yea, in heart ye work iniquity ; 

In the earth ye weigh out the violence of your handsj 

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb : 
Gone astray from birth are the speakers of lies. 

4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent, 
Like the deaf adder that stops its ear, 

5 That will not hearken to the voice of the charmerSy 
The skilled weaver of spells. 

^ 6 O God, break their teeth in their mouth : 

The grinders of the young lions wrench out, Jehovah. 

7 Let them melt like waters [that] run themselves [dry] ! 
[When] he shoots his arrows, let them be as if pointless. 

8 [Let them be] as a slug that dissolves as it crawls : 

As the premature birth of a woman, [that] has not seen the sun. 

9 Before your pots feel the thorns. 

Whether it be green or burning, He shall whirl it away. \ 

10 The righteous shall rejoice that he has beheld [the] vengeance : 
His footsteps shall he bathe in the blood of the wicked. 

11 And men shall say, Surely there is fruit for the righteous : 
Surely there is a God judging in the earth. 

THIS psalmist's fiery indignation against unjust 
judges and evil-doers generally is not kindled by 
personal wrongs. The psalm comes hot from a heart 
lacerated by the sight of widespread corruption, and con- 
strained to seek for patience in the thought of the swift 
sweeping away of evil men before their plans are effected. 

Stern triumph in the punitive manifestations of God's 



rule, and keen sense of the need of such, are its key- 
notes. Vehement emotion stirs the poet's imagination 
to heap together strong and, in part, obscure metaphors. 
Here emphatically " Indignatio facit versus." The 
psalm is Dantesque in its wealth of sombre imagina- 
tion, which produces the most solemn effects with the 
homeliest metaphors, and in its awed and yet satisfied 
contemplation of the fate of evil-doers. It parts itself 
into three portions, — a dark picture of abounding evil 
(vv. 1-5) ; its punishment prayed for (vv. 6-9) ; and 
the consequent joy of the righteous and widespread 
recognition of the rule of a just God (vv. 10, 11). 

The abrupt question of ver. i speaks of long pent- 
up indignation, excited by protracted experience of 
injustice, and anticipates the necessary negative answer 
which follows. The word rendered by the A.y. and 
R. V. " in silence " or " dumb " can scarcely be twisted 
into intelligibility, and the small alteration of reading 
required for the rendering *' gods " is recommended by 
the similar expressions in the kindred Psalm Ixxxii. 
Taken thus, the question is hurled at the appointed 
depositaries of judicial power and supreme authority. 
There is no need to suppose, with Hupfeld and others, 
whom Cheyne follows, that these " gods " are super- 
natural beings intrusted with the government of the 
world. The explanation of the name lies in the 
conception of such power as bestowed by God, and in 
some sense a delegation of His attribute; or, as our 
Lord explained the similar name in Psalm Ixxxii., as 
given because "to them the word of God came." It 
sets in sinister light the flagrant contradiction between 
the spirit in which these men exercised their office 
and the source from which they derived it, and thus 
sharpens the reproach of the question. The answer is 

Iviii.] THE PSALMS 191 

introduced by a particle conveying a strong opposition 
to the previous supposition couched in the question. 
*' Heart" and "hands" are so obviously antithetical, 
that the alteration of " in heart " to " ye all " is not 
acceptable, though it removes the incongruity of plans 
being wrought in the heart, the seat of devices, not of 
actions. "Work" may be here used anomalously, as 
we say "work out," implying the careful preparation 
of a plan, and there may even be a hint that the true 
acts are the undone acts of the heart. The unaccom- 
plished purpose is a deed, though never clothed in 
outward fact. Evil determined is, in a profound sense, 
done before it is done ; and, in another equally solemn, 
not done when " 'tis done," as Macbeth has taught us. 
The " act," as men call it, follows : " In the earth " — 
not only in the heart — " ye weigh out the violence of 
your hands." The scales of justice are untrue. Instead 
of dispensing equity, as they were bound to do, they 
clash into the balance the weight of their own violence. 
It is to be noted that the psalm says no more about 
the sins of unjust authorities, but passes on to describe 
the " wicked " generally. The transition may suggest 
that under unjust rulers all wrongdoers find impunity, 
and so multiply and worsen ; or it may simply be that 
these former are now merged in the class to which 
they belong. The type of " wickedness " gibbeted is 
the familiar one of malicious calumniators and perse- 
cutors. From birth onwards they have continuously 
been doers of evil. The psalmist is not laying down 
theological propositions about heredity, but describing 
the inveterate habit of sin which has become a second 
nature, and makes amendment hopeless. The reference 
to " lies " naturally suggests the image of the serpent's 
poison. An envenomed tongue is worse than any 


snake's bite. And the mention of the serpent stimulates 
the poet's imagination to yet another figure, which puts 
most graphically that disregard of warnings, entreaties, 
and every voice, human or Divine, that marks long- 
practised, customary sinfulness. There can be no more 
striking symbol of determined disregard to the calls of 
patient Love and the threats of outraged Justice than 
that of the snake lying coiled, with its head in the 
centre of its motionless folds, as if its ears were 
stopped by its own bulk, while the enchanter plays his 
softest notes and speaks his strongest spells in vain. 
There are such men, thinks this psalmist. There are 
none whom the mightiest spell, that of God's love in 
Christ, could not conquer and free from their poison ; 
but there are such as will close their ears to its 
plaintive sweetness. This is the condemnation that 
light is come and men love darkness, and had rather 
lie coiled in their holes than have their fangs extracted. 
C The general drift of the second part (vv. 6-9) is 
to call down Divine retribution on these obstinate, 
irreclaimable evil-doers. Figure is heaped on figure 
in a fashion suggestive of intense emotion. The 
transiency of insolent evil, the completeness of its 
destruction, are the thoughts common to them all. 
There are difficulties in translation, and, in ver. 9, 
probable textual corruption ; but these should not hide 
the tremendous power of gloomy imagination, which 
can lay hold of vulgar and in part loathsome things, 
and, by sheer force of its own solemn insight, can free 
them from all low or grotesque associations, and turn 
them into awful symbols. The intense desirp for the 
sweeping away of evil-doers has met us in many 
previous psalms, and it is needless to repeat former 
observations on it. But it is nowhere expressed with 

Iviii.] THE PSALMS 193 

such a wealth of metaphor as here. ) The first of these, 
that of crushing the jaws and breaking the teeth of a 
beast of prey, occurs also in Psalm iii. 7. It is less 
terrible than the subsequent imprecations, since it onl}^ 
contemplates the wickeds' deprivation of power to do 
harm. In ver. 7 a their destruction is sought, while, in 
the second clause of the same verse, the defeat of their 
attempts is desired. Ver. 8 then expands the former 
wish, and ver. 9 the latter. This plain symmetrical 
arrangement makes the proposals to resort to trans- 
position unnecessary. Mountain torrents quickly run 
themselves dry ; and the more furious their rush, the 
swifter their exhaustion. They leave a chaos of 
whitened stones, that lie bleaching in the fierce sun 
when the wild spate is past. So stormy and so short 
will be the career of evil-doers. So could a good man 
of old wish it to be ; and so may we be sure of and 
desire the cessation of oppression and man's inhumanity 
to man. Ver. 7 ^ is obscure. All these figures are 
struck out with such parsimony of words that they 
are difficult. They remind one of some of the stern, 
unfinished work of Michael Angelo, where a blow or 
two of his chisel, or a dash or two of his brush, has 
indicated rather than expressed his purpose, and left a 
riddle, fascinating in its incompleteness, for smaller 
men to spell out. In ver. 7 ^ it may be asked, Who 
is the archer ? If God, then the whole is a presenta- 
tion as if of an occurrence taking place before our eyes. 
God shoots His arrow, and at once it lodges in the heart 
of the enemies, and they are as though cut off. But 
it is better to take the wicked as the subject of both 
verbs, the change from singular to plural being by no 
means unusual in successive clauses with the same 
subject. If so, this clause recurs to the thought of 
VOL. II. 13 


ver. 6, and prays for the neutralising of the wicked 
man's attempts. He fits his arrows, aims, and draws 
the bow. May they fall harmless, as if barbless 1 
An emendation has been proposed by which the clause 
is made parallel with Psalm xxxvii. 2, "As grass let 
them be quickly cut off," thus securing a complete 
parallel with «, and avoiding the difficulty in the word 
rendered by us ** pointless." But the existing text gives 
a vigorous metaphor, the peculiarity of which makes it 
preferable to the feebler image of withering grass. 

The prayer for destruction is caught up again in 
ver. 8, in two daring figures which tremble on the 
verge of lowering the key of the whole ; but by escaping 
that peril, produce the contrary effect, and heighten it. 
A slug leaves a shining track of slime as it creeps, 
which exudes from its soft body, and thus it seems to 
disintegrate itself by its own motion. It is the same 
thought of the suicidal character of bad men's efforts 
which was expressed by the stream foaming itself away 
in the nullah. It is the eternal truth that opposition 
to God's will destroys itself by its own activity. The 
unfulfilled life of a premature birth, with eyes which 
never opened to the light for which they were made, 
and possibilities which never unfolded, and which is 
huddled away into a nameless grave, still more im- 
pressively symbolises futility and transiency. 

In ver. 9 the figure has given much trouble to com- 
mentators. Its broad meaning is, however, undoubted. 
It is, as ver. 6 and ver. 7 ^, symbolic of the Divine 
intervention which wrecks wicked men's plans before 
they are wrought out. The picture before the psalmist 
seems to be that of a company of travellers round their 
camp fire, preparing their meal. They heap brush- 
wood under the pot, and expect to satisfy their hunger ; 

Iviii.] THE PSALMS 19S 

but before the pot is warmed through, not to say before 
the water boils or the meat is cooked, down comes a 
whirlwind, which sweeps away fire, pot, and all. Every 
word of the clause is doubtful, and, with the existing 
text, the best that can be done is not wholly satis- 
factory. If emendation is resorted to, the suggestion 
of Bickell, adopted by Cheyne, gives a good sense : 
"[And] while your [flesh] is yet raw, the hot wrath 
[of Jehovah] shall sweep it away." Baethgen makes a 
slighter alteration, and renders, " While it is still raw, 
He sweeps it away in wrath." Retaining the existing 
text (which is witnessed by the LXX. and other old 
versions), probably the best rendering is, " Whether 
[it be] green or burning. He shall whirl it away." This 
general understanding of the words is shared by com- 
mentators who differ as to what is represented as swept 
away, — some making it the thorn fire, the twigs of which 
may be either full of sap or well alight ; while others 
take the reference to be to the meat in the pot, which 
may be either 'Miving," i.e. raw, or well on the way to 
being cooked. Neither application is quite free from 
difficulty, especially in view of the fact that some 
pressure has to be put on the word rendered "burning," 
which is not an adjective, but a noun, and is usually 
employed to designate the fiery wrath of God, as it is 
rendered in the amended text just mentioned. After 
all attempts at clearing up the verse, one must be 
content to put a mark of interrogation at any rendering. 
But the scope of the figure seems discoverable through 
the obscurity. It is a homely and therefore vigorous 
picture of half-accomplished plans suddenly reduced to 
utter failure, and leaving their concocters hungry for 
the satisfaction which seemed so near. The cookery 
may go on merrily and the thorns crackle cheerily, but 


the simoom comes, topples over the tripod on which 
the pot swung, and blows the fire away in a hundred 
directions. Peter's gibbet was ready, and the morning 
of his execution was near; but when day dawned, 
"there was no small stir what was become of him." 
The wind had blown him away from the expectation ol 
the people of the Jews into safe quarters ; and the fire 
was dispersed. 

The closing part (w. lo, 1 1) breathes a stern spirit 
of joy over the destruction of the wicked. That is a 
terrible picture of the righteous bathing his feet in the 
blood of the wicked (Psalm Ixviii. 23). It expresses 
not only the dreadful abundance of blood, but also 
the satisfaction of the ** righteous " at its being shed. 
There is an ignoble and there is a noble and Christian 
satisfaction in even the destructive providences of God. 
It is not only permissible but imperative on those who 
would live in sympathy with His righteous dealings 
and with Himself, that they should see in these the 
manifestation of eternal justice, and should consider 
that they roll away burdens from earth and bring hope 
snd rest to the victims of oppression. It is no unworthy 
about of personal vengeance, nor of unfeeling triumph, 
that is lifted up from a relieved world when Babylon 
falls. If it is right in God to destroy, it cannot be 
wrong in His servants to rejoice that He does. Only 
they have to take heed that their emotion is untarnished 
by selfish gratulation, and is not untinged with solemn 
pity for those who were indeed doers of evil, but were 
themselves the greatest sufferers from their evil. It is 
hard, but not impossible, to take all that is expressed 
in the psalm, and to soften it by some effluence from 
the spirit of Him who wept over Jerusalem, and yet 
pronounced its doom. 

Iviii.] THE PSALMS 197 

The last issue of God's judgments contemplated by 
the psalm warrants the joy of the righteous ; for in 
these there is a demonstration to the world that there 
is " fruit " to the righteous, and that notwithstanding 
all bewilderments from the sight of prosperous wicked- 
ness and oppressed righteousness " there is a God 
who judges in the earth." The word "judging" is 
here in the plural, corresponding with " God " (Elohim), 
which is also plural in form. Possibly the construction 
is to be explained on the ground that the words de- 
scribe the thoughts of surrounding, polytheistic nations, 
who behold the exhibition of God's righteousness. But 
more probably the plural is here used for the sake of 
the contrast with the '' gods " of ver. i. Over these 
unworthy representatives of Divine justice sits the true 
judge, in the manifoldness of His attributes, exercising 
His righteous though slow-footed judgments. 


^ Deliver me from my enemies, O my God : 
Out of the reach of those who arise against me set me on 

2 Deliver me from workers of iniquity, 
And from men of blood save me. 

3 For, see, they have lain in wait for my soul, 
The violent gather together against me : 

Not for transgression or sin of mine, Jehovahj) 

4 Without [my] fault they run and set themselves in array! 
Awake to meet me, and behold. 

5 And Thou, Jehovah, God of hosts, God of Israel, 
Rouse Thyself to visit all the nations : 

Be not gracious to wicked apostates. Selah. 

6 They return at evening, they snarl like dogs, and prowl round 

the city. 

7 See, they foam at the mouth ; 
Swords are in their lips : 
For "Who hears?" 

8 But Thou, Jehovah, shalt laugh at them | 
Thou mockest at all the nations. 

9 My Strength, for Thee will I watch : 
For God is my high tower. 

10 My God shall come to meet me with His loving-kindness S 
God will let me look on my adversaries. 

1 1 Slay them not, lest my people forget : 

Make them wanderers by Thy power (army ?), and cast them 

O Lord our shield. 

12 [Each] word of their lips is a sin of their mouth, 
And they snare themselves in their pride, 

And for the cursing and lying [which] they speak, 


lix.] THE PSALMS 199 

13 End [them] in wrath, end [them], that they be no more ! 
And let them know that God is ruler in Jacob, 

Unto the ends of the earth. Selah. 

14 And they shall return at evening, they shall growl like dogs, 
And prowl round the city. 

15 They — they shall wander about for food, 

If they are not gorged, then [so must] they pass the night. 

16 And I will sing Thy strength. 

And sound aloud Thy loving-kindness in the morning, 
For Thou hast been a high tower for me, 
And a refuge in the day of my straits. 

17 My strength, to Thee will I harp, 

For God is my high tower, the God of my loving-kindness. 

THE superscription makes this the earliest of David's 
psalms, dating from the Sauline persecution. It 
has many points of connection with the others of that 
group, but its closest affinities are with Psalm Iv., which 
is commonly considered to belong to the period of 
incubation of Absalom's rebellion {cf. Psalm Iv. 10 
with lix. 6, 14, and Iv. 21 with lix. 7). The allusion 
to enemies patrolling the city, which is common to both 
psalms, seems to refer to a fact, and may in this psalm 
be founded on the watchfulness of Saul's emissaries; 
but its occurrence in both weakens its force as here 
confirmatory of the superscription. It does not neces- 
sarily follow from the mention of the ** nations " that the 
psalmist's enemies are foreigners. Their presence in 
the city and the stress laid on words as their weapons 
are against that supposition. On the whole, the con- 
tents of the psalm do not negative the tradition in the 
title, but do not strongly attest it. If we have accepted 
the Davidic authorship of the other psalms of this 
group, we shall extend it to this one ; for they clearly 
are a group, whether Davidic or not. The psalm falls 
into two principal divisions (vv. 1-9 and 10-17), each 
closing with a refrain, and each subdivided into two 


minor sections, the former of which in each case ends 
with Selah, and the latter begins with another refrain. 
The two parts travel over much the same ground of peti- 
tion, description of the enemies, confidence in deliverance 
and in the defeat of the foes. But in the first half the 
psalmist prays for himself, and in the second he prays 
against his persecutors, while assured confidence in his 
own deliverance takes the place of alarmed gaze on their 
might and cruelty. 

The former half of the first part begins and ends with 
petitions. ^Imbedded in these is a plaintive recounting 
of the machinations of the adversaries, which are, as it 
were, spread before God's eyes, accompanied with pro- 
testations of innocence. The prayers, which enclose, 
as in a circlet, this description of unprovoked hatred, 
are varied, so that the former petitions are directed to 
the singer's deliverance, while the latter invoke judg- 
ment on his antagonists. The strong assertion of 
innocence is, of course, to be limited to the psalmist's 
conduct to his enemies. They attack him without 
provocation. Obviously this feature corresponds to 
the facts of Saul's hatred of David, and as obviously 
it does not correspond to the facts of Israel's sufferings 
from foreign enemies, which are supposed by the present 
favourite interpretation to be the occasion of the psalm!) 
No devout singer could so misunderstand the reason of 
the nation's disasters as to allege that they had fallen 
upon innocent heads. Rather, when a psalmist be- 
wailed national calamities, he traced them to national 
sins. "Anger went up against Israel, because they 
believed not in God." The psalmist calls God to look 
upon the doings of his enemies. Privy plots and open 
assaults are both directed against him. The enemy 
lie in wait for his life; but also, with fell eagerness. 

lixj THE PSALMS Joi 

like that of soldiers making haste to rank them- 
selves in battle-array, they "run and set themselves." 
This is probably simply metaphor, for the rest of the 
psalm does not seem to contemplate actual warfare. 
The imminence of peril forces an urgent prayer from 
the threatened man. So urgent is it that it breaks in on 
the parallelism of ver. 4, substituting its piercing cry 
" Awake, behold 1 " for the proper second clause carrying 
on the description in the first. The singer makes haste 
to grasp God's hand, because he feels the pressure of 
the wind blowing in his face. It is wise to break off 
the contemplation of enemies and dangers by crying to 
God. Prayer is a good interruption of a catalogue of 
perils. The petitions in ver. 5 are remarkable, both 
in their accumulation of the Divine names and in their 
apparent transcending of the suppliant's need. The 
former characteristic is no mere artificial or tautological 
heaping together of titles, but indicates repeated acts of 
faith and efforts of contemplation. Each name suggests 
something in God which encourages hope, and when 
appealed to by a trusting soul, moves Him to act. The 
very introductory word of invocation, "And Thou," is 
weighty. It sets the might of God in grand contrast 
to the hurrying hatred of the adversary ; and its signifi- 
cance is enhanced if its recurrence in ver. 8 and its 
relation to " And I " in ver. 16 are taken into account. 

The combination of the Divine names is remarkable 
here, from the insertion of God (Elohim) between the 
two parts of the standing name, Jehovah of hosts. 
The anomaly is made still more anomalous by the 
peculiar form of the word Elohim, which does not 
undergo the modification to be expected in such a 
construction. The same peculiarities occur in other 
Elohistic psalms (Ixxx. 4, 19, and Ixxxiv. 8). The 


peculiar grammatical form would be explained if the 
three words were regarded as three co-ordinate names, 
Jehovah, Elohim, Zebaoth, and this explanation is 
favoured by good critics. But it is going too far to 
say, with Baethgen, that " Zebaoth can only be under- 
stood as an independent Divine name " (Komm., in loc). 
Other explanations are at least possible, such as that 
of Delitzsch, that " Elohim, like Jehovah, has become a 
proper name," and so does not suffer modification. 
The supplicatory force of the names, however, is clear, 
whatever may be the account of the formal anomalies. 
They appeal to God and they hearten the appellant's con- 
fidence by setting forth the loftiness of God, who rules 
over the embattled forces of the universe, which " run 
and set themselves in array " at His bidding and for His 
servant's help, and before which the ranks of the foes 
seem thin and few. They set forth also God's relation 
to Israel, of which the single suppliant is a member. 

The petition, grounded upon these names, is supposed 
by modem commentators to prove that the psalmist's 
enemies were heathens, which would, of course, destroy 
the Davidic authorship, and make the singer a personi- 
fication of the nation. But against this is to be 
observed the description of the enemies in the last 
clause of ver. 5 as "apostates," which must refer to 
Israelites. The free access to the "city," spoken of 
in ver. 6, is also unfavourable to that supposition, as 
is the prominence given to the words of the enemy. 
Foreign foes would have had other swords than those 
carried between their lips. The prayer that Jehovah 
would arise to visit " all nations " is much more 
naturally explained, as on the same principle as the 
judgment of " the peoples " in Psalm vii. All special 
cases are subsumed under the one general judgment. 

lix.] THE PSALMS 203 

The psalmist looks for his own deliverance as one 
instance of that world-wide manifestation of Divine 
justice which will "render to every man according to 
his deeds." Not only personal considerations move 
him to his prayer; but, pressing as these are, and 
shrill as is the cry for personal deliverance, the psalmist 
is not so absorbed in self as that he cannot widen 
his thoughts and desires to a world-wide manifestation 
of Divine righteousness, of which his own escape will 
be a tiny part. Such recognition of the universal in 
the particular is the prerogative in lower walks of the 
poet and the man of genius ; it is the strength and 
solace of the man who lives by faith and links all 
things with God. The instruments here strike in, so 
as to fix attention on the spectacle of God aroused to 
smite and of the end of apostates. 

The comparison of the psalmist's enemies to dogs 
occurs in another psalm ascribed to David (xxii. 16, 20). 
They are like the masterless, gaunt, savage curs which 
infest the streets of Eastern cities, hungrily hunting for 
offal and ready to growl or snarl at every passer-by. 
Though the dog is not a nocturnal animal, evening 
would naturally be a time when these would specially 
prowl round the city in search of food, if disappointed 
during the day. The picture suggests the enemies' 
eagerness, lawlessness, foulness, and persistency. If 
the psalm is rightly dated in the superscription, it 
finds most accurate realisation in the crafty, cruel 
watchfulness of Saul's spies. The word rendered by 
the A.V and R.V. '* make a noise " is " said usually of 
the growling of the bear and the cooing of the dove " 
(Delitzsch). It indicates a lower sound than barking, 
and so expresses rage suppressed lest its object should 
take alar ti. The word rendered (A.V. and R.V.) 


** belch " means to gush out, and is found in a good 
sense in Psalm xix. i. Here it may perhaps be taken 
as meaning ** foam," with some advantage to the truth 
of the picture. "Swords are in their lips" — i.e.^ their 
talk is of slaying the psalmist, or their slanders cut 
like swords ; and the crown of their evil is their scoff 
at the apparently deaf and passive God. 

With startling suddenness, as if one quick touch 
drew aside a curtain, the vision of God as He really 
regards the enemies is flashed on them in ver. 8. 
The strong antithesis expressed by the " And Thou," 
as in ver. 5, comes with overwhelming force. Below 
is the crowd of greedy foes, obscene, cruel, and blas- 
phemous ; above, throned in dread repose, which is not, 
as they dream, carelessness or ignorance, is Jehovah, 
mocking their fancied security. The tremendous 
metaphor of the laughter of God is too boldly anthropo- 
morphic to be misunderstood. It sounds like the germ 
of the solemn picture in Psalm ii., and is probably the 
source of the similar expression in Psalm xxxvii. 13. 
The introduction of the wider thought of God's 
' mocking " — />., discerning, and manifesting in act, the 
impotence of the ungodly efforts of "all nations" — is 
to be accounted for on the same principle of the close 
connection discerned by the devout singer between the 
particular and the general, which explains the similar 
extension of view in ver. 5. 

Ver. 9 is the refrain closing the first part. The 
reading of the Hebrew text, " His strength," must be 
given up, as unintelligible, and the slight alteration 
required for reading " my " instead of " his " adopted, 
as in the second instance of the refrain in ver. 17. The 
further alteration of text, however, by which " I will 
harp" would be read in ver. 9 instead of "I will 

lix.] THE PSALMS 205 

watch" is unnecessary, and the variation of the two 
refrains is not only in accordance with usage, but 
brings out a delicate phase of progress in confidence. 
He who begins with waiting for God ends with singing 
praise to God. The silence of patient expectance is 
changed for the melody of received deliverance. 

The first part of the second division, like the 
corresponding portion of the first division, is mainly 
prayer, but with the significant difference that the 
petitions now are directed, not to the psalmist's 
deliverance, but to his enemies' punishment. For 
himself, he is sure that his God will come to meet him 
with His loving-kindness, and that, thus met and helped, 
he will look on, secure, at their ruin. The Hebrew 
margin proposes to read "The God of my loving- 
kindness will meet me " — an incomplete sentence, which 
does not tell with what God will meet him. But the 
text needs only the change of one vowel point in order 
to yield the perfectly appropriate reading, " My God 
shall meet me with His loving-kindness," which is 
distinctly to be preferred. It is singular that the 
substitution of " my " for " his," which is needlessly 
suggested by the Hebrew margin for ver. 10, is re- 
quired but not suggested for ver. 9. One is tempted to 
wonder whether there has been a scribe's blunder 
attaching the correction to the wrong verse. The 
central portion of this part of the psalm is composed of 
terrible wishes for the enemies' destruction. There is 
nothing more awful in the imprecations of the Psalter 
than that petition that the boon ot a swift end to 
their miseries may not be granted them. The dew of 
pity for suffering is dried up by the fire of stern desire 
for the exhibition of a signal instance of Divine judicial 
righteousness. That desire lifts the prayer above the 


level of personal vengeance, but does not lighten its 
awfulness. There may be an allusion to the fate of 
Cain, who was kept alive and made a " fugitive and a 
vagabond." Whether that is so or not, the wish that 
the foes may be kept alive to be buffeted by God's 
strength — or, as the word may mean, to be scattered in 
panic-struck rout by God's army — is one which marks 
the difference between the old and the new covenants. 
The ground of these fearful punishments is vehemently 
set forth in ver. 1 2. Every word which the adversaries 
speak is sin. Their own self-sufficient pride, which is 
revolt against dependence on God, is like a trap to 
catch them. They speak curses and lies, for which 
retribution is due. This recounting of their crimes, 
not so much against the psalmist, though involving 
him, as against God, fires his indignation anew, and he 
flames out with petitions which seem to forget the 
former ones for lingering destruction : " End them in 
wrath, end them." The contradiction may be apparent 
only, and this passionate cry may presuppose the fulfil- 
ment of the former. The psalmist will then desire two 
dreadful things — first, protracted suffering, and then a 
crushing blow to end it. His ultimate desire in both is 
the same. He would have the evil-doers spared long 
enough to be monuments of God's punitive justice ; he 
would have them ended, that the crash of their fall 
may reverberate afar and proclaim that God rules in 
Jacob. " Unto the ends of the earth " may be con- 
nected either with "rules" or with "know." In the 
former construction the thought will be, that from His 
throne in Israel God exercises dominion universally ; 
in the latter, that the echo of the judgment on these 
evil-doers will reach distant lands. The latter meaning 
is favoured by the accents, and is, on the whole, to be 

Ux.] THE PSALMS 207 

preferred. But what a strange sense of his own signi- 
ficance for the manifestation of God's power to the 
world this singer must have had, if he could suppose 
that the events of his life were thus of universal import- 
ance I One does not wonder that the advocates of the 
personification theory find strong confirmation of it in 
such utterances ; and, indeed, the only other explana- 
tion of them is that the psalmist held, and knew himself 
to hold, a conspicuous place in the evolution of the 
Divine purpose, so that in his life, as in a small mirror, 
there were reflected great matters. If such anticipa- 
tions were more than wild dreams, the cherisher of 
them must either have been speaking in the person of 
the nation, or he must have known himself to be God's 
instrument for extending His name through the world. 
No single person so adequately meets the requirements 
of such words as David. 

The second part of this division (ver. 14) begins with 
the same words as the corresponding part of the first 
division (ver. 6), so that there is a kind of refrain here. 
The futures in w. 14, 15, may be either simple futures 
or optatives. In the latter case the petitions of the 
preceding verses would be continued here, and the 
pregnant truth would result that continuance in sin is 
the punishment of sin. But probably the imprecations 
are better confined to the former part, as the Selah 
draws a broad hne of demarcation, and there would be 
an incongruity in following the petition ^' End them " 
with others which contemplated the continuance of the 
enemies. If the verses are taken as simply predictive, 
the point of the reintroduction of the figure of the 
pack of dogs hunting for their prey lies in ver. 15. 
There they are described as balked in their attempts, 
and having to pass the night unsatisfied. Their prey 


has escaped. Their eager chase, their nocturnal quest, 
their growling and prowling, have been vain. They lie 
down empty and in the dark — a vivid picture, which 
has wider meanings than its immediate occasion. " Ye 
lust and desire to have, and cannot obtain." An eternal 
nemesis hangs over godless lives, condemning them to 
hunger, after all efforts, and wrapping their pangs of 
unsatisfied desire in tragic darkness. 

A clear strain of trust springs up, like a lark's 
morning song. The singer contrasts himself with his 
baffled foes. The "they" at the beginning of ver. 15 
is emphatic in the Hebrew, and is matched with the 
emphatic "And I " which begins ver. 16. His "morn- 
ing " is similarly set over against their " night." So 
petition, complaint, imprecation, all merge into a song 
of joy and trust, and the whole ends with the refrain 
significantly varied and enlarged. In its first form the 
psalmist said, " For Thee will I watch " ; in its second 
he rises to " To Thee will I harp." Glad praise is ever 
the close of the vigils of a faithful, patient heart. The 
deliverance won by waiting and trust should be cele- 
brated by praise. In the first form the refrain ran 
" God is my high tower," and the second part of the 
psalm began with " My God shall meet me with His 
loving-kindness." In its second form the refrain draws 
into itself these words which had followed it, and so 
modifies them that the loving-kindness which in them 
was contemplated as belonging to and brought by God 
is now joyfully clasped by the singer as his very own, by 
Divine gift and through his own acceptance. Blessed 
they who are led by occasion of foes and fears to take 
God's rich gifts, and can thankfully and humbly feel 
that His loving-kindness and all its results are theirs, 
because He Himself is theirs and they are His I 


f I O God, Thou hast cast us off, hast broken ua^ 
Hast been angry with us — restore us again. 

2 Thou hast shaken the land, hast rent it — 
Heal its breaches, for it trembles. 

3 Thou hast made Thy people see hard things, 
Thou hast given them to drink reeling as wine, 

4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee^ 
[Only] that they may flee before the bow. Selah*^ 

5 That Thy beloved ones may be delivered. 
Save with Thy right hand, and answer us. 

6 God has spoken in His holiness, — I will exult : 

I will divide Shechem, and measure out the valley of Succoth 

7 Mine is Gilead, and mine Manasseh, 
And Ephraim is the strength of my head, 
Judah, my baton of command. 

8 Moab is my wash basin. 

Upon Edom will I throw my shoe, 
Because of me, Philistia, shout aloud. 

9 Who will bring me into the fenced city t 
Who has guided me into Edom ? 

10 Hast not Thou, O God, cast us off? 

And goest not out, O God, with our hosta* 

1 1 Give us help from the oppressor, 
For vain is help of man. 

12 In God we shall do prowess : 

And He, He will tread down our oppressors. 

THIS psalm has evidently a definite historical back- 
ground. Israel has been worsted in fight, but 
still continues its campaign against Edom. Meditating 

VOL, II. 209 j^ 


on God's promises, the psalmist anticipates victory, 
which will cover defeat and perfect partial successes, 
and seeks to breathe his own spirit of confidence into 
the ranks of his countrymen. But the circumstances 
answering to those required by the psalm are hard to 
find. The date assigned by the superscription cannot 
be called satisfactory ; for David's war there referred to 
(2 Sam. viii.) had no such stunning defeats as are here 
lamented. The Divine Oracle, of which the substance 
is given in the central part of the psalm, affords but 
dubious indications of date. At first sight it seems to 
imply the union of all the tribes in one kingdom, and 
therefore to favour the Davidic authorship. But it 
may be a question whether the united Israel of the 
Oracle is fact or prophecy. To one school of com- 
mentators, the mention of Ephraim in conjunction with 
Judah is token that the psalm is prior to the great 
revolt ; to another, it is proof positive that the date is 
after the destruction of the northern kingdom. The 
Maccabean date is favoured by Olshausen, Hitzig, and 
Cheyne among moderns ; but, apart from other objec- 
tions, the reappearance of w. 5-12 in Psalm cviii. 
implies that this piece of Hebrew psalmody was 
already venerable when a later compiler wove part 
of it into that psalm. On the whole, the Davidic 
authorship is possible, though clogged with the difficulty 
already mentioned. But the safest conclusion seems 
to be Baethgen's modest one, which contrasts strongly 
with the confident assertions of some other critics — 
namely, that assured certainty in dating the psalm "is 
no longer possible." 

It falls into three parts of four verses each, of which 
the first (w. 1-4) is complaint of defeat and prayer for 
help; the second (vv. 5-8), a Divine Oracle assuring 

Ix.] THE PSALMS 2il 

victory; and the third (vv. 9-12), the flash of fresh 
hope kindled by that God's-word. 

(The first part blends complaint and prayer in the 
first pair of verses, in each of which there is, first, a 
description of the desperate state of Israel, and then 
a cry for help. The nation is broken, as a wall 
is broken down, or as an army whose ordered ranks 
are shattered and scattered. Some crushing defeat is 
meant, which in ver. 2 is further described as an earth- 
quake. The land trembles, and then gapes in hideous 
clefts, and houses become gaunt ruins. The state is 
disorganised as in consequence of defeat. It is an 
unpoetical mixture of fact and figure to see in the 
"rending" of the land allusion to the separation of 
the kingdoms, especially as that was not the result of 

There is almost a tone of wonder in the designation 
of Israel as " Thy people," so sadly does the fate meted 
out to them contrast with their name. Stranger still 
and more anomalous is it, that, as ver. 3 b laments, God's 
own hand has commended such a chalice to their lips 
as should fill them with infatuation. The construction 
" wine of reeling " is grammatically impossible, and the 
best explanation of the phrase regards the nouns as in 
apposition — "wine which is reeling," or "reeling as 
wine." The meaning is that God not only sent the 
disaster which had shaken the nation like an earth- 
quake, but had sent, too, the presumptuous self- 
confidence which had led to it. 

Ver. 4 has received two opposite interpretations, being 
taken by some as a prolongation of the tone of lament 
over disaster, and by others as commemoration of God's 
help. The latter meaning violently interrupts the 
continuity of thought. " The only natural view is that 


which sees " in ver. 4 " a continuation of the descrip- 
tion of calamity " in ver. 3 (Cheyne, in loc). Taking 
this view, we render the second clause as above. 
The word translated " that they may flee " may indeed 
mean to lift themselves up, in the sense of gathering 
round a standard, but the remainder of the clause 
cannot be taken as meaning '* because of the truth,'* 
since the preposition here used never means " because 
of." It is best taken here as from before. The word 
variously rendered how and truth is difficult. It occurs 
again in Prov. xxii. 21, and is there parallel with 
'* truth " or faithfulness in fulfilling Divine promises. 
But that meaning would be inappropriate here, and 
would require the preceding preposition to be taken 
in the impossible sense already noted. It seems better, 
therefore, to follow the LXX. and other old versions, 
in regarding the word as a slightly varied mode of 
spelling the ordinary word for a bow (the final dental 
letter being exchanged for a cognate dental). The 
resulting meaning is deeply coloured by sad irony. 
" Thou hast indeed given a banner — but it was a 
signal for flight rather than for gathering round." Such 
seems the best view of this difficult verse ; but it is not 
free from objection. " Those who fear Thee " is not 
a fitting designation for persons who were thus scattered 
in flight by God, even if it is taken as simply a synonym 
for the nation. We have to make choice between 
two incongruities. If we adopt the favourite view, that 
the verse continues the description of calamity, the 
name given to the sufferers is strange. If we take 
the other, that it describes God's gracious rallying of 
the fugitives, we are confronted with a violent inter- 
ruption of the tone of feeling in this first part of the 
psalm. Perowne accepts the rendering from before 

Ix.] THE PSALMS 213 

the boWf but takes the verb in the sense of mustering 
round, so making the banner to be a rallying-point, and 
the giving of it a Divine mercy. 

The second part (vv. 5-8) begins with a verse which 
Delitzsch and others regard as really connected, not- 
withstanding the Selah at the end ver. 4, with the 
preceding. But it is quite intelligible as independent, 
and is in its place as the introduction to the Divine 
Oracle which follows, and makes the kernel of the 
psalm. There is beautiful strength of confidence in 
the psalmist's regarding the beaten, scattered people 
as still God's "darlings." He appeals to Him to 
answer, in order that a result so accordant with God's 
heart as the deliverance of His beloved ones may be 
secured. And the prayer has no sooner passed his 
lips than he hears the thunderous response, " God has 
spoken in His holiness." That infinite elevation of 
His nature above creatures is the pledge of the fulfil- 
ment of His word. 

The following verses contain the substance of the 
Oracle; but it is too daring to suppose that they re- 
produce its words ; for " 1 will exult " can scarcely be 
reverently put into the mouth of God. The substance 
of the whole is a twofold promise — of a united Israel, 
and a submissive heathendom. Shechem on the west 
and Succoth on the east of Jordan, Gilead and 
Manasseh on the east, and Ephraim and Judah on the 
west, are the possession of the speaker, whether he is 
king or representative of the nation. No trace of a 
separation of the kingdoms is here. Ephraim, the 
strongest tribe of the northern kingdom, is the " strength 
of my head," the helmet, or perhaps with allusion to 
the horns of an animal as symbols of offensive weapons. 
Judah is the ruling tribe, the commander's baton, or 


possibly " lawgiver," as in Gen. xlix. Israel thus com- 
pact together may count on conquests over hereditary 

Their defeat is foretold in contemptuous images. 
The basin for washing the feet was " a vessel unto 
dishonour"; and, in Israel's great house, no higher 
function for his ancestral enemy, when conquered, 
would be found. The meaning of casting the shoe 
upon or over Edom is doubtful. It may be a symbol 
for taking possession of property, though that lacks 
confirmation ; or Edom may be regarded as the house- 
hold slave to whom the master's shoes are thrown 
when taken off; or, better, in accordance with the 
preceding reference to Moab, Edom may be regarded 
as part of the master's house or furniture. The one 
was the basin for his feet ; the other, the comer where 
he kept his sandals. 

If the text of ver. 8tr is correct, Philistia is ad- 
dressed with bitter sarcasm, and bidden to repeat her 
ancient shouts of triumph over Israel now, if she can. 
But the edition of these verses in Psalm cviii. gives 
a more natural reading, which may be adopted here : 
" Over Philistia will I shout aloud." 

The third part (w. 9-12) is taken by some com- 
mentators to breathe the same spirit as the first part. 
Cheyne, for instance, speaks of it as a "relapse into 
despondency," whilst others more truly hear in it the 
tones of rekindled trust. In ver. 9 there is a remark- 
able change of tense from " Who will bring ? " in the 
first clause, to " Who has guided ? " in the second. 
This is best explained by the supposition that some 
victory over Edom had preceded the psalm, which 
is regarded by the singer as a guarantee of success 
in his assault of "the fenced city," probably Petra. 

Ix.] THE PSALMS 215 

There is no need to supplement ver. 10, so as to read, 
"Wilt not Thou, O God, which," etc. The psalmist 
recurs to his earlier lament, not as if he thought that 
it still held true, but just because it does not. It 
explained the reason of past disasters ; and, being now 
reversed by the Divine Oracle, becomes the basis of 
the prayer which follows. It is as if he had said, 
"We were defeated because Thou didst cast us off. 
Now help as Thou hast promised, and we shall do 
deeds of valour." It is impossible to suppose that the 
result of the Divine answer which makes the very 
heart of the psalm, should be a hopeless repetition of 
the initial despondency. Rather glad faith acknow- 
ledges past weakness and traces past failures to self- 
caused abandonment by a loving God, who let His 
people be worsted that they might learn who was 
their strength, and ever goes forth with those who 
go forth to war with the consciousness that all help 
but His is vain, and with the hope that in Him even 
their weakness shall do deeds of prowess. " Hast not 
Thou cast us off? " may be the utterance of despair ; 
but it may also be that of assured confidence, and the 
basis of a prayer that will be answered by God's 
present help. 


'l Hear, O God, my shrill cry, 
Attend to my prayer. 

2 From the end of the earth I cry to Thee, when my heart is 

wrapped [in gloom] : 
Lead me on to a rock that is too high for me to [reach] 

3 For Thou hast been a place of refuge for me, 
A tower of strength from the face of the foe. 

4 Let me dwell a guest in Thy tent for ever, 

Let me find refuge in the covert of Thy wings. Selah. 

5 For Thou, O God, hast hearkened to my vows, 

Thou hast given [me] the heritage of them that fear Thy name. / 

6 Days mayest Thou add to the days of the king, 
May his years be as many generations. 

7 May he sit before God for ever : 

Give charge to loving-kindness and troth, that they guard him. 

8 So will I harp to Thy name for aye, 
That I may fulfil my vows day by day. 

THE situation of the singer in this psalm is the 
same as in Psalm Ixiii. In both he is an exile 
longing for the sanctuary, and in both ** the king " is 
referred to in a way which leaves his identity with the 
psalmist questionable. There are also similarities in 
situation, sentiment, and expression with Psalms xlii. 
and xliii. — e.g.^ the singer's exile, his yearning to appear 
in the sanctuary, the command given by God to His 
Loving-kindness (xlii. 8 and Ixi. 8), the personification 
of Light and Troth as his guides (xliii. 3), compared 


Ixi.] THE PSALMS 217 

with the similar representation here of Loving-kindness 
and Troth as guards set by God over the psalmist. 
The traditional attribution of the psalm to David has at 
least the merit of providing an appropriate setting tor 
its longings and hopes, in his flight from Absalom. 
No one of the other dates proposed by various critics 
seems to satisfy anybody but its proposer. Hupfeld 
calls Hitzig's suggestion ** wunderbar zu lesen." Graetz 
inclines to the reign of Hezekiah, and thinks that " the 
connection gains " if the prayer for the preservation of 
the king's life refers to that monarch's sickness. The 
Babylonish captivity, with Zedekiah for " the king/' is 
preferred by others. Still later dates are in favour 
now. Cheyne lays it down that " pre-Jeremian such 
highly spiritual hymns (t.e.y Psalms Ixi. and Ixiii.) 
obviously cannot be," and thinks that "it would not 
be unplausible to make them contemporaneous with 
Psalm xlii., the king being Antiochus the Great," but 
prefers to assign them to the Maccabean period, and to 
take " Jonathan, or (better) Simon " as the king. Are 
'* highly spiritual hymns " probable products of that 
time ? 

If the Selah is accepted as marking the end of the 
first part of the psalm, its structure is symmetrical, so 
far as it is then divided into two parts of four verses 
each ; but that division cuts off the prayer in ver. 4 
from its ground in ver. 5. Selah frequently occurs in 
the middle of a period, and is used to mark emphasis, 
but not necessarily division. It is therefore better to 
keep vv. 4 and 5 together, thus preserving their analogy 
with vv. 2 and 3. The scheme of this little psalm 
will then be an introductory verse, followed by two 
parallel pairs of verses, each consisting of petition and 
its grounding in past mercies (vv. 2, 3, and 4, 5), and 


these again succeeded by another pair containing 
petitions for "the king/' while a final single verse, 
corresponding to the introductory one, joyfully foresees 
life-long praise evoked by the certain answers to the 
singer*s prayer. 

(The fervour of the psalmist's supplication is strikingly 
expressed by his use in the first clause, of the word 
which is ordinarily employed for the shrill notes of 
rejoicing. It describes the quality of the sound as 
penetrating and emotional, not the nature of the emotion 
expressed by it. Joy is usually louder-tongued than 
sorrow; but this suppliant's need has risen so high that 
his cry is resonant. To himself he seems to be at 
''the end of the earth"; for he measures distance not as 
a map-maker, but as a worshipper. Love and longing 
are potent magnifiers of space. His heart " faints," or is 
** overwhelmed." The word means literally '* covered," 
and perhaps the metaphor may be preserved by some 
such phrase as wrapped in gloom. He is, then, an 
exile, and therefore sunk in sadness. But while he had 
external separation from the sanctuary chiefly in view, 
his cry wakes an echo in all devout hearts. They who 
know most about the inner life of communion with God 
best know how long and dreary the smallest separation 
between Him and them seems, and how thick is the 
covering spread over the heart thereby.^ 

The one desire of such a suppliant is for restoration 
of interrupted access to God. The psalmist embodies 
that yearning in its more outward form, but not 
without penetrating to the inner reality in both the 
parallel petitions which follow. In the first of these, 
(ver. 2 b) the thought is fuller than the condensed 
expression of it. " Lead me on " or in, says he, mean- 
ing, Lead me to and set me on. His imagination sees 


towering above him a great cliff, on which, if he could 
be planted, he might defy pursuit or assault. But he 
is distant from it, and the inaccessibility which, were 
he in its clefts, would be his safety, is now his despair. 
Therefore he turns to God and asks Him to bear him 
up in His hands, that he may set his foot on that rock. 
The figure has been, strangely enough, interpreted to 
mean a rock of difficulty, but against the usage in the 
Psalter. But we do not reach the whole significance of 
the figure if we give it the mere general meaning 
of a place of safety. While it would be too much to 
say that " rock " is here an epithet of God (the absence 
of the definite article and other considerations are 
against that), it may be affirmed that the psalmist, like 
all devout men, knew that his only place of safety was 
in God. " A rock " will not afford adequate shelter ; 
our perils and storms need " the Rock." And, there- 
fore, this singer bases his prayer on his past experience 
of the safe hiding that he had found in God. " Place 
of refuge " and " strong tower " are distinctly parallel 
with " rock." The whole, then, is like the prayer in 
Psalm xxxi. 2, 3 : " Be Thou to me a strong rock. For 
Thou art my rock." 

The second pair of verses, containing petition and 
its ground in past experience (w. 4, 5), brings out still 
more clearly the psalmist's longing for the sanctuary. 
The futures in ver. 4 may be taken either as simple 
expressions of certainty, or, more probably, as precative, 
as is suggested by the parallelism with the preceding pair. 
The " tent " of God is the sanctuary, possibly so called 
because at the date of the psalm " the ark of God 
dwelt in curtains." The " hiding-place of Thy wings " 
may then be an allusion to the Shechinah and outspread 
pinions of the Cherubim. But the inner reality is more 


lo the psalmist than the external symbols, however his 
faith was trained to connect the two more indissolubly 
than is legitimate for us. His longing was no super- 
stitious wish to be near that sanctuary, as if external 
presence brought blessing, but a reasonable longing, 
grounded on the fact for his stage of revelation, that 
such presence was the condition of fullest realisation 
of spiritual communion, and of the safety and blessed- 
ness thence received. His prayer is the deepest desire 
of every soul that has rightly apprehended the facts of 
life, its own needs and the riches of God. The guests 
in God*s dwelling have guest-rights of provision and 
protection. Beneath His wings are safety, warmth, 
and conscious nearness to His heart. The suppliant 
may feel far off, at the end of the world ; but one 
strong desire has power to traverse all the distance in a 
moment. " Where the treasure is, there will the heart 
be also " ; and where the heart is, there the man is. 

The ground of this second petition is laid in God's 
past listening to vows, and His having given the 
psalmist "the heritage of those that fear Thy name." 
That is most naturally explained as meaning pri- 
marily the land of Israel, and as including therein all 
other blessings needful for life there. While it is 
capable of being otherwise understood, it is singularly 
appropriate to the person of David during the period 
of Absalom's rebellion, when victory was beginning to 
declare itself for the king. If we suppose that he had 
already won a battle (2 Sam. xviii. 6), we can under- 
stand how he takes that success as an omen and urges 
it as a plea. The pair of verses will then be one 
instance of the familiar argument which trustful hearts 
instinctively use, when they present past and incom- 
plete mercies as reasons for continued gifts, and for the 

Ixi.] THE PSALMS 221 

addition of all which is needed to " perfect that which 
concerneth " them. It rests on the confidence that 
God is not one who ** begins and is not able to finish." 

Very naturally, then, follows the closing praye- in 
vv. 6, 7. The purely individual character of the rest 
of the psalm, which is resumed in the last verse, where 
the singer, speaking in the first person, reprseents his 
continual praise as the result of the answer to his 
petitions for the king, makes these petitions hopelessly 
irrelevant, unless the psalmist is the king and these 
prayers are for himself. The transition to the third 
person does not necessarily negative this interpretation, 
which seems to be required by the context. The 
prayer sounds hyperbolical, but has a parallel in Psalm 
xxi. 4, and need not be vindicated by taking the 
dynasty rather than the individual to be meant, or b_y 
diverting it to a Messianic reference. It is a prayei 
for length of days, in order that the deliverance alread;> 
begun may be perfected, and that the psalmist ma}i 
dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (cf. Psalms xxiii 
6 ; xxvii. 4). He asks that he may sit enthroned before 
God for ever — that is, that his dominion may by God's 
favour be established and his throne upheld in peace 
The psalm is in so far Messianic that the everlasting 
kingdom of the Christ alone fulfils its prayer. 

The final petition has, as has been noticed above, 
parallels in Psalms xlii., xliii., to which may be added 
the personifications of Goodness and Loving-kindness 
in Psalm xxiii. 6. These bright harnessed angels 
stand sentries over the devout suppliant, set on theii 
guard by the great Commander; and no harm can 
come to him over whom God's Loving-kindness and 
Faithfulness keep daily and nightly watch. 

Thus guarded, the psalmist's prolonged life will be 


one long anthem of praise, and the days added to his 
days will be occupied with the fulfilment of his vows 
made in trouble and redeemed in his prosperity. What 
congruity is there between this closing verse, which is 
knit closely to the preceding by that ''So," and the 
previous pair of verses, unless the king is himself the 
petitioner ? " Let him sit before God for ever " — how 
comes that to lead up to " So will / harp to Thy name 
for ever " ? Surely the natural answer is. Because 
" he *' and " I " are the same person. 


1 Only upon God [waits] my soul [in] silence t 
From Him is my salvation. 

2 Only He is my rock and my salvation, 

My high tower, I shall not be greatly moved, 

3 How long will ye rush upon a man ? 

[How long] will ye all of you break him down^ 
Like a bulging wall, a tottering fence ? 

4 Only from his elevation do they consult to thrust him down, they 

delight in lies : 
Each blesses with his mouth, and in their inner [part] they 
curse. Selah. 

{^ Only to God be silent, my soul, 
For from Him is my expectation. 

6 Only He is my rock and my salvation, 
My high tower ; I shall not be moved, 

7 On God is my salvation and my glory, 

The rock of my strength, my refuge, is in God* 

8 Trust in him in every time, O people I 
Pour out before Him your heart, 
God is a refuge for us. Selah^ 

9 Only vanity are the sons of the lowly, a lie are the sons of the 

In the scales they go up, they are [lighter] than vanity altogether. 

10 Trust not in oppressions and in robbery become not vain, 
When wealth grows, set not your heart thereon. 

11 Once has God spoken, twice have I heard this, 
That strength [belongs] to God. 

12 And to Thee, O God, [belongs] loving-kindness, 

For Thou, Thou renderest to a man according to his work. 

THERE are several points of affinity between this 
psalm and the thirty-ninth, — such as the frequent 
use of the particle of asseveration or restriction (** surely" 



or *' only ") ; the rare and beautiful word for " silence," 
as expressing restful, still resignation ; and the charac- 
terisation of men as "vanity." These resemblances are 
not proofs of identity of authorship, though establishing 
a presumption in its favour. Delitzsch accepts the 
psalm as Davidic, and refers it to the time of Absalom's 
revolt. The singer is evidently in a position of dignity 
(*' elevation," ver. 4), and one whose exhortations come 
with force to the " people " (ver. 8), whether that won' 
is understood as designating the nation or his immediate 
followers. Cheyne, who relegates the psalm to the 
Persian period, feels that the recognition of the singer 
as " a personage who is the Church's bulwark " is the 
natural impression on reading the psalm ("Orig. o 
Psalt," 227, and 242, «.). If so, David's position is 
precisely that which is required. Whoever sang this 
immortal psalm, rose to the heights of conquering faith, 
and gave voice to the deepest and most permanent 
emotions of devout souls. 

The psalm is in three strophes of four verses each, 
the divisions being marked by Selah. The two former 
have a long refrain at the beginning, instead of, as 
usually, at the end. In the first the psalmist sets his 
quiet trust in contrast with the furious assaults of his 
foes ; while, in the second, he stirs himself to renewed 
exercise of it, and exhorts others to share with him 
in the security of God as a place of refuge. In 
the third strophe the nothingness of man is set in 
strong contrast to the power and loving-kmdness of 
God, and the dehortation from trust in material wealth 
urged as the negative side of the previous exhortation 
to trust in God. 

The noble saying of ver. i a is hard to translate 
without weakening. The initial word may have the 

Uii.] THE PSALMS 225 

meanings of *' Only " or " Surely." The former seems 
more appropriate in this psalm, where it occurs six 
times, in one only of which (ver. 4) does the latter 
seem the more natural rendering, though even there 
the other is possible. It is, however, to be noticed 
that its restrictive power is not always directed to the 
adjacent word ; and here it may either present God as 
the exclusive object of the psalmist's waiting trust, or 
his whole soul as being nothing else but silent resigna- 
tion. The reference to God is favoured by ver. 2, but 
the other is possible. The psalmist's whole being is, 
as it were, but one stillness of submission. The noises 
of contending desires, the whispers of earthly hopes, 
the mutterings of short-sighted fears, the self-asserting 
accents of an insisting will, are hushed, and all his 
nature waits mutely for God's voice. No wonder that 
a psalm which begins thus should end with '^God 
hath spoken once, twice have I heard this " ; for such 
waiting is never in vain. The soul that cleaves to 
God is still ; and, being still, is capable of hearing the 
Divine whispers which deepen the silence which they 
bless. ** There is no joy but calm " ; and the secret of 
calm is to turn the current of the being to God. Then 
it is like a sea at rest. 

The psalmist's silence finds voice, which does not 
break it, in saying over to himself what God is to him. 
His accumulation of epithets reminds us of Psalm xviii. 
I, 2. Not only does his salvation come from God, but 
God Himself is the salvation which He sends forth like 
an angel. The recognition of God as his defence is 
the ground of ** silence " ; for if He is " my rock and my 
salvation," what can be wiser than to keep close to Him, 
and let Him do as He will ? The assurance of personal 
safety is inseparable from such a thought of God. 

VOL. IL 15 


Nothing which does not shake the rock can shake the 
frail tent pitched on it. As long as the tower stands, 
its inhabitant can look down from his inaccessible 
fastness with equanimity, though assailed by crowds. 
Thus the psalmist turns swiftly, in the latter pair of 
verses making up the first strophe, to address remon- 
strances to his enemies, as engaged in a useless effort, 
and then drops direct address and speaks of their 
hostility and treachery. The precise meaning of parts 
of ver. 3 has been misapprehended, by reason of the 
peculiarities of some of the words and the condensed 
character of the imagery in 3, c. The rendering above 
is substantially that generally accepted now. It sets in 
striking contrast the single figure of the psalmist and 
the multitude of his assailants. " All of you " rush 
upon a man like a pack of hounds on one defenceless 
creature, and try to break him down, as men put their 
shoulders to a wall in order to overthrow it. The partial 
success of the assault is hinted in the epithets applied 
to wall and fence, which are painted as beginning to 
give under pressure. Language of confidence sounds 
strangely in such circumstances. But the toppling 
wall, with all these strong men pushing at it, will " not 
be greatly moved." The assailants might answer the 
psalmist's " How long ? " with defiant confidence that a 
short time only was needed to complete the begun ruin ; 
but he, firm in his faith, though tottering in his fortunes, 
knows better, and, in effect, tells them by his question 
that, however long they may press against his feeble- 
ness, they will never overthrow him. The bulging wall 
outlasts its would-be destroyers. But appeal to them 
is vain ; for they have one settled purpose absorbing 
them — namely, to cast him down from his height. He 
is, then, probably in some position of distinction, 

Ixii.] THE PSALMS tVf 

threatened by false friends, who are plotting his de- 
position, while their words are fair. All these circum- 
stances agree well with the Davidic authorship. 

The second strophe reiterates the refrain, with slight 
but significant variations, and substitutes for the address 
to and contemplation of the plotters a meditation on 
the psalmist's own security, and an invitation to others 
to share it. In ver. 5 the refrain is changed from a 
declaration of the psalmist's silent waiting to self- 
exhortation thereto. Cheyne would assimilate the two 
verses by making both verbs imperatives ; but that 
change destroys the beautiful play of feeling, so true to 
experience, which passes from consciousness of one's 
attitude towards God to effort at preserving it. No 
emotions, however blessed, deep, and real, will last, 
unless perpetually renewed. Like carbon points in 
electric lights, they burn away as they burn, and the 
light dies, unless there is some impulse which presses 
a fresh surface forward to receive the fiery kiss that 
changes its blackness into radiance. The ** expecta- 
tion " in ver. 5 ^ is substantially equivalent to the 
" salvation " in ver. lb. It means not the emotion 
(which could not be said to be " from Him "), but the 
thing expected, just as '* hope" is used for the res sperata. 
The change in expression from " salvation " to " expec- 
tation" makes prominent the psalmist's attitude. In 
his silence his wistful eyes look up, watching for the 
first far-off brightening which tells him that help is 
on its road from the throne. Salvation will not come 
unexpected, and expectation will not look for succours 
in vain. 

^ There may be deep meaning in the slight omission 
of "greatly" in the second refrain. Confidence has 
grown. The first hope was that the waiting heart 


should not be much shaken, that the tottering fence 
should not be quite thrown down ; the second is that 
it shall not be shaken at all. An access of faith has 
poured into the singer's soul with his song ; and now 
he has no thought of the crowd of assailants, who have 
faded from his sight because he is gazing on God/ 
Hence the second pair of verses in this strophe (vv. 7, 
8) substitutes for the description of their fierce rush the 
triumphant reiteration of what God is to the psalmist, 
and an invitation to others to come with him into that 
strong refuge. The transition to addressing the 
"people" is natural, if the psalm is David'^ The 
phrase would then apply to his immediate followers, 
who were one with him in peril, and whom he would 
fain have one with him in trust. But the LXX. has 
another reading, which involves only the insertion of 
a letter, that may easily have dropped out, in the word 
rendered ** time," and which makes the verse run more 
smoothly. It reads "all the congregation of the 
people," in which it is followed by Baethgen, Cheyne, 
and others. Whoever the psalmist was, he felt the 
impulse which follows all deep experience of the 
security that comes from hiding in God — namely, the 
longing to beckon in others out of the storm into peace. 
Every man who has learned that God is a refuge for 
him is thereby assured that He is the same for all men, 
and thereby moved to beseech them to make the like 
blessed discovery. The way into that hiding-place is 
trust. "Pour out before Him your heart," says the 
psalmist. " In everything by prayer and supplication 
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known 
unto God," says Paul. They both mean the same thing. 
We take refuge in our refuge when we set our faith on 
Godj and tell Him all that threatens or troubles us. 

Ixii.] THE PSALMS 229 

When we do, we are no longer in the open, defenceless 
before the rush of enemies, but housed in God, or, as 
Paul puts it, guarded in Christ Jesus, as in a fortress. 
No wonder that the psalm pauses for a moment on that 
thought, and lets the notes of harp and horn impress it 
on the listeners I 

The third strophe sets the emptiness of men in strong 
contrast to the sufficiency of God. " Vanity " is 
literally "a breath," and would better be so rendered 
in ver. 9, but for the recurrence of the verb from the 
same root in ver. 10, which requires the rendering *' be 
not vain." It is desirable to preserve identity of trans- 
lation, so as to retain the play of words. But by doing 
so ver. 9 is somewhat weakened. The eyes that have 
been looking on God are cleared to see the shadowy 
nothingness of men of all degrees. The differences of 
high and low dwindle when seen from that " high 
tower," as lower lands appear flat when viewed from a 
mountain top. They are but " breath," so fleeting 
unsubstantial are they. They are a " lie," in so far 
as hopes directed to them are deceived and trust mis- 
placed. The singer is not cynically proclaiming man's 
worthlessness, but asserting his insufficiency as the 
object of man's trust. His point of view is different 
from that of Psalm xxxix., though his words are the 
same. The " Only " which begins ver. 9 carries us 
back to the similar beginning of the preceding strophes, 
and brings out the true force of the following words, by 
suggesting the contrast between men and the God on 
whom the psalmist's soul waits in silence. That con- 
trast may be further continued in ver. 9 b. The lowly 
and the lofty are in one scale. What is in the other, 
the solid weight of which sends them aloft as hghter ? 
Is it pressing the metaphor too far to suppose that the 


psalmist is weighing the whole mass of men against 
God only ? Heap them altogether and balance them 
against Him, and the gathered mass does not weigh as 
much as an imponderable breath. Who could trust in 
that emptiness when he has God to trust in ? Who 
would grasp shadows when he may cling to that eternal 
Substance ? 

The natural conclusion from ver. 9 follows in the 
exhortation of ver. 10, which completes the positive 
presentation of the true object of trust (ver. 8) by the 
warning against false refuges. The introduction of 
" oppression " and " robbery " is singular, for it can 
scarcely be supposed that the assailants of the psalmist 
are here addressed, and still less that his followers 
needed to be warned against these crimes. Cheyne, 
therefore, follows Graetz and others in reading " per- 
verseness " for '* oppression," and " crookedness " for 
" robbery " ; but the alteration throws the clause out 
of harmony with the next clause. It may be that in 
ver. 10 a the psalmist has in view unjust gain and in b 
justly acquired wealth, and that thus his two dehor- 
tations cover the whole ground of material riches, as if 
he had said, " Whether rightly or wrongly won, they are 
wrongly used if they are trusted in." The folly and 
misery of such trust are vigorously set forth by that 
word " become vain." The curse of misplaced con- 
fidence is that it brings down a man to the level of what 
he trusts in, as the blessing of wisely placed trust is 
that it lifts him to that level. Trust in vanity is vain, 
and makes the truster "vanity." Wind is not a 
nourishing diet. It may inflate, or, as Paul says about 
knowledge, may " puff up," but not " build up." Men 
are assimilated to the objects of their trust ; and if these 
are empty, ** so is every one that trusteth in them."* 

Ixii.] THE PSALMS 231 

So far the psalmist has spoken. But his silent 
waiting has been rewarded with a clear voice from 
heaven, confirming that of his faith. It is most natural 
to regard the double revelation received by the psalmist 
as repeated in the following proclamation of the two 
great aspects of the Divine nature — Power and Loving- 
kindness. The psalmist has learned that these two 
are not opposed nor separate, but blend harmoniously 
in God's nature, and are confluent in all His works. 
Power is softened and directed by Loving-kindness. 
Loving-kindness has as its instrument Omnipotence. 
The synthesis of these two is in the God whom men are 
invited to trust ; and such trust can never be dis- 
appointed ; for His Power and His Loving-kindness will 
co-operate to " render to a man according to his work." 
The last word of the psalm adds the conception of 
Righteousness to those of Power and Loving-kindness. 
But the psalmist seems to have in view mainly one 
direction in which that rendering " to a man according 
to his work " is active — namely, in answering the trust 
which turns away from human power which is weakness, 
and from human love which may change and must die, 
to anchor itself on the might and tenderness of God. 
Such " work of faith " will not be in vain ; for these 
twin attributes of Power and Love are pledged to 
requite it with security and peace. 


f O God, my God art Thou, I seek Thee earnestly, 
My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh pines for Thee, 
In a dry and weary land, without water. 

2 So in the sanctuary have I gazed on Thee^ 
To see Thy power and Thy glory. 

3 For Thy loving-kindness is better than life, 
[Therefore] my lips shall praise Thee. 

4 So will I bless Thee while I live, 
In Thy name will I lift my hands.^ 

5 As [with] fat and marrow shalLmy soul be satisfied. 

And with lips that joyfully shout shall my mouth praise Thee, 

6 When I remember Thee on my bed. 

Through the watches [of the night] do I meditate on Thee. 

7 For Thou hast been a help for me. 

And in the shadow of Thy wings will I shout for joy, 

8 My soul cleaves [to and presses] after Thee, 
Me does Thy right hand uphold. 

9 But these — for its destruction they seek my soul ; 
They shall go into the undermost parts of the earth. 

10 They shall be given over to the power of the sword. 
The portion of jackals shall they be. 

11 But the king shall rejoice in God, 

Every one that swears by Him shall glory, 

For the mouth of them that speak a lie shall be stopped. 

IF the psalmist is allowed to speak, he gives many 
details of his circumstances in his song. He is in 
a waterless and weary land, excluded from the sanctuary, 
followed by enemies seeking his life. He expects a 
fight, in which they are to fall by the sword, and appa- 


Ixiii.] THE PSALMS «33 

rently their defeat is to lead to his restoration to his 

These characteristics converge on David. Cheyne 
has endeavoured to show that they fit the faithful 
Jews in the Maccabean period, and that the " king " 
in ver. 2 is " Jonathan or [better] Simon " (" Orig. of 
Psalt.," 99, and " Aids to Dev. Study of Crit.," 308 seqq). 
But unless we are prepared to accept the dictum that 
" Pre-Jeremian such highly spiritual hymns obviously 
cannot be" (m.s.), the balance of probability will be 
heavily in favour of the Davidic origin. 

The recurrence of the expression " My soul ** in 
w. I, 5, 8, suggests the divisions into which the psalm 
falls. Following that clue, we recognise three parts, 
in each of which a separate phase of the experience 
of the soul in its communion with God is presented as 
realised in sequence by the psalmist. The soul longs 
and thirsts for God (vv. 1-4). The longing soul is 
satisfied in God (vv. 5-7). The satisfied soul cleaves 
to and presses after God (w. 8-1 1). These stages melt 
into each other in the psalm as in experience, but are 
still discernible. 

I In the first strophe the psalmist gives expressioi 
in immortal words to his longing after God. Like many 
a sad singer before and after him, he finds in the dreary 
scene around an image of yet drearier experiences 
within. He sees his own mood reflected in the grey 
monotony of the sterile desert, stretching waterless on 
every side, and seamed with cracks, like mouths gaping 
for the rain that does not come. He is weary and 
thirsty ; but a more agonising craving is in his spirit, 
and wastes his flesh. As in the kindred Psalms 
xlii., xliii., his separation from the sanctuary has dimmed 
his sight of God, He longs for the return of that vision 


in its former clearness. But even while he thirsts, he 
in some measure possesses, since his resolve to " seek 
earnestly " is based on the assurance that God is his 
God. In the region of the devout life the paradox is true 
that we long precisely because we have. Every soul 
is athirst for God ; but unless a man can say, " Thou 
art my God," he knows not how to interpret nor where 
to slake his thirst, and seeks, not after the living 
Fountain of waters, but after muddy pools and broken 

Ver. 2 is difficult principally because the reference of 
the initial *' So " is doubtful. By some it is connected 
with the first clause of ver. i : " So " — />., as my God — 
" have I seen Thee.'* Others suppose a comparison to 
be made between the longing just expressed and former 
ones, and the sense to be, " With the same eager desire 
as now I feel in the desert have I gazed in the sanctuary." 
This seems the better view. Hupfeld proposes to 
transpose the two clauses, as the A.V. has done in its 
rendering, and thus gets a smoother run of thought. 
The immediate object of the psalmist's desire is thus 
declared to be " to behold Thy power and glory," and 
the " So " is substantially equivalent to '* According as." 
If we retain the textual order of the clauses, and under- 
stand the first as paralleling the psalmist's desert longing 
with that which he felt in the sanctuary, the second 
clause will state the aim of the ardent gaze — namely, to 
" behold Thy power and Thy glory." These attributes 
were peculiarly manifested amid the imposing sanctities 
where the light of the Shechinah, which was especially 
designated as ** the Glory," shone above the ark. 

The first clause of ver. 3 is closely connected with 
the preceding, and gives the reason for some part of 
the emotion there expressed, as the introductory " For " 

Ixiii.] THE PSALMS 235 

shows. But it is a question to which part of the fore- 
going verses it refers. It is probably best taken as 
assigning the reason for their main subject — namely, the 
psalmist's thirst after God. ** Where your treasure is, 
there will your heart be also." Our desires are shaped 
by our judgments of what is good. The conviction of 
God's transcendent excellence and absolute sufficiency 
for all our cravings must precede the direction of these 
to Him. Unless all enjoyments and possessions, which 
become ours through our corporeal life, and that life 
itself, are steadfastly discerned to be but a feather's 
weight in comparison with the pure gold of God's loving- 
kindness, we shall not long for it more than for them. 

The deep desires of this psalmist were occasioned by 
his seclusion from outward forms of worship, which 
were to him so intimately related to the inward reality, 
that he felt farther away from God in the wilderness 
than when he caught glimpses of His face, through the 
power and glory which he saw visibly manifested in 
the sanctuary. But in his isolation he learns to equate 
his desert yearnings with his sanctuary contemplations, 
and thus glides from longing to fruition. His devotion, 
nourished by forms, is seen in the psalm in the very 
act of passing on to independence of form ; and so 
springs break out for him in the desert. His passion 
of yearning after God rebukes and shames our faint 
desires. This man's soul was 'all on the stretch to 
grasp and hold God. His very physical frame was 
affected by his intense longing. If he did not long too 
much, most men, even those who thirst after God most, 
long terribly too little. Strong desire has a joy in its 
very aching ; feeble desire only makes men restless and 
uncomfortable. Nothing can be more preposterous 
than tepid aspirations after the greatest and only good. 


To hold as creed that God's loving-kindness is better 
than life, and to wish a little to possess it, is surely 
irrational, if anything is so. 

The remaining clauses of ver. 3 and ver. 4 form a 
transition to the full consciousness of satisfaction which 
animates the psalmist in the second part. The resolve 
to praise, and the assurance that he will have occasion 
to praise, succeed his longing with startling swiftness. 
The " So " of ver. 4 seems to be equivalent to " Accord- 
ingly" — i.e.y since Thy loving-kindness is such supreme 
good, and is mine because I have desired it. Continual 
praise and as continual invocation are the fitting employ- 
ments of those who receive it, and by these alone can 
their possession of the loving-kindness bestowed be 
made permanent. If empty palms are not ever lifted 
towards God, His gifts will not descend. When these 
are received, they will fall like morning sunbeams on 
stony and dumb lips, which before were only parted to 
let out sighs, and will draw forth music of praise. 
There are longings which never are satisfied ; but God 
lets no soul that thirsts for Him perish for lack of the 
water of life. Wisdom bids us fix our desires on that 
Sovereign Good, to long for which is ennobling and 
blessed, and to possess which is rest and the beginning 
of heaven. 

Thus the psalmist passes imperceptibly to the second 
strophe, in which the longing soul becomes the satisfied 
soul. The emblem of a feast is naturally suggested 
by the previous metaphor of thirst. The same con- 
viction, which urged the psalmist forward in his search 
after God, now assures him of absolute satisfaction 
in finding Him. Since God's loving-kindness is better 
than life, the soul that possesses Him can have no 
unappeased cavings, nor any yet hungry affections 

Ixiii.] THE PSALMS 237 

or wishes. In the region of communion with God, 
fruition is contemporaneous with and proportioned 
to desire. When the rain comes in the desert, what 
was baked earth is soon rich pasture, and the dry 
torrent beds, where the white stones glittered ghastly 
in the sunshine, are musical with rushing streams and 
fringed with budding oleanders. On that telegraph a 
message is flashed upwards and an answer speeds 
downwards, in a moment of time. Many of God's gifts 
are delayed by Love; but the soul that truly desires 
Him has never long to wait for a gift that equals its 

When God is possessed, the soul is satisfied. So 
entire is the correspondence between wants and gift, 
that every concavity in us finds, as it were, a convexity 
to match it in Him. The influx of the great ocean of 
God fills every curve of the shore to the brim, and the 
flashing glory of that sunlit sea covers the sands, and 
brings life where stagnation reigned and rotted. So 
the satisfied soul lives to praise, as the psalm goes on 
to vow. Lips that drink such draughts of Loving- 
kindness will not be slow to tell its sweetness. If we 
have nothing to say about God's goodness, the probable 
cause is our want of experience of it. 

That feast leaves no bitter taste. The remembrance 
of it is all but as sweet as its enjoyment was. Thus, 
in ver. 6, the psalmist recounts how, in the silent hours 
of night, when many joys are seen to be hollow, and 
conscience wakes to condemn coarse delights, he recalled 
his blessednesses in God, and, like a ruminant animal, 
tasted their sweetness a second time. The verse is 
best regarded as an independent sentence. So blessed 
was the thought of God, that, if once it rose in his 
wakeful mind as h^ lay on his bed, he " meditated " 


on it all the night. Hasty glances show little of any- 
thing great. Nature does not unveil her beauty to a 
cursory look; much less does God disclose His. If 
we would feel the majesty of the heavens, we must gaze 
long and steadfastly into their violet depths. The 
mention of the *' night-watches " is appropriate, if this 
psalm is David's. He and his band of fugitives had to 
keep vigilant guard as they lay down shelterless in the 
desert ; but even when thus ringed by possible perils, 
and listening for the shout of nocturnal assailants, the 
psalmist could recreate- and calm his soul by meditation 
on God. Nor did his experience of God's sufficiency 
bring only remembrances ; it kindled hopes. " For 
Thou hast been a help for me ; and in the shadow of 
Thy wings will I shout for joy." Past deliverances 
minister to present trust and assure of future joy. The 
prerogative of the soul, blessed in the sense of possess- 
ing God, is to discern in all that has been the mani- 
festations of His help, and to anticipate in all that is 
to come the continuance of the same. Thus the second 
strophe gathers up the experiences of the satisfied soul 
as being fruition, praise, sweet lingering memories that 
fill the night of darkness and fear, and settled trust in 
the coming of a future which will be of a piece with 
such a present and past. 

The third strophe (w. 8-11) presents a stage in 
the devout soul's experience which naturally follows 
the two preceding. Ver. 8 has a beautifully pregnant 
expression for the attitude of the satisfied soul. Literally 
rendered, the words run, " cleaves after Thee," thus 
uniting the ideas of close contact and eager pursuit. 
Such union, however impossible in the region of lower 
aims, is the very characteristic of communion with God, 
in which fruition subsists along with longing, since 

Ixiii.] THE PSALMS 239 

God is infinite, and the closest approach to and fullest 
possession of Him are capable of increase. Satisfaction 
tends to became satiety when that which produces it 
is a creature whose limits are soon reached; but the 
cup which God gives to a thirsty soul has no cloying 
in its sweetness. On the other hand, to seek after 
Him has no pain nor unrest along with it, since the 
desire for fuller possession comes from the felt joy 
of present attainment. Thus, in constant interchange 
satisfaction and desire beget each other, and each 
carries with it some trace of the other's blessedness. 

Another beautiful reciprocity is suggested by the 
very order of the words in the two clauses of ver. 8. 
The first ends with " Thee " ; the second begins with 
** Me." The mutual relation of God and the soul is 
here set forth. He who " cleaves after God " is upheld 
in his pursuit by God's hand. And not in his pursuit 
only, but in all his life ; for the condition of receiving 
sustaining help is desire for it, directed to God and 
verified by conduct. Whoever thus follows hard after 
God will feel his outstretched, seeking hand inclosed 
in a strong and loving palm, which will steady him 
against assaults and protect him in dangers. " No 
man is able to pluck them out of the Father's hand," 
if only they do not let it go. It may slip from slack 

We descend from the heights of mystic communion 
in the remainder of the psalm. But in the singer's 
mind his enemies were God's enemies, and, as ver. 1 1 
shows, were regarded as apostates from God in being 
traitors to " the king." They did not " swear by 
Him" — />., they did not acknowledge God as God. 
Therefore, such being their character, the psalmist's 
confidence that God's right hand upheld him necessarily 


passes into assurance of their defeat. This is not 
vindictiveness, but confidence in the sufficiency of 
God's protection, and is perfectly accordant with the 
lofty strains of the former part of the psalm. The pic- 
ture of the fate of the beaten foe is partly drawn from 
that of Korah and his company. These rebels against 
God's king shall go, where those rebels against His 
priest long ago descended. " They shall be poured out 
upon the hands of the sword," or, more literally still, 
"They shall pour him out," is a vigorous metaphor, 
incapable of transference into English, describing how 
each single enemy is given over helplessly, as water 
is poured out, to the sword, which is energetically 
and to our taste violently, conceived of as a person 
with hands. The meaning is plain — a battle is im- 
pending, and the psalmist is sure that his enemies will 
be slain, and their corpses torn by beasts of prey. 

How can the '* king's " rejoicing in God be the conse- 
quence of their slaughter, unless they are rebels ? And 
what connection would the defeat of a rebellion have 
with the rest of the psalm, unless the singer were 
himself the king ? " This one line devoted to the king 
is strange," says Cheyne. The strangeness is unac- 
counted for, but on the supposition that David is the 
king and singer. If so, it is most natural that his song 
should end with a note of triumph, and should antici- 
pate the joy of his own heart and the '* glorying " of 
his faithful followers, who had been true to God in 
being loyal to His anointed. 



\l Hear, O God, my voice in my complaint. 
From the fear of the enemy guard my life. 

2 Hide me from the secret assembly of evil-doers^ 
From the noisy crowd of workers of iniquity X 

3 "Who whet, like a sword, their tongue, 
[Who] aim [as] their arrow a bitter word, 

4 To shoot in hiding-places [at] the upright ; 
Suddenly they shoot [at] him, and fear not 

5 They strengthen themselves [in] an evil plan^ 
They talk of laying snares. 

They say, Who looks at them ? 

6 They scheme villainies, 

We have perfected [say they] a scheme [well] schemed S 
And the inward part of each, and [his] heart, is deepi. 

7 But God shoots [at] them [with] an arrow. 
Suddenly come their wounds. 

8 And they are made to stumble. 
Their own tongue [comes] upon them, 
All who look on them shake the head. 

9 And all men fear, 

And declare the act of God, 
And understand His work. 
lO The righteous shall rejoice in Jehovah, and take refuge in Him, 
And all the upright in heart shall glory. 

FAMILIAR notes are struck in this psalm, which 
has no very distinctive features. Complaint of 
secret slanderers, the comparison of their words to 
arrows and swords, their concealed snares, their blas- 
phemous defiance of detection, the sudden flashing out 

VOL. IL 241 i^ 


of God's retribution, the lesson thereby read to and 
learned by men, the vindication of God's justice, and 
praise from all true hearts, are frequent themes. They 
are woven here into a whole which much resembles 
many other psalms. But the singer's heart is none 
the less in his words because many others before him 
have had to make like complaints and to stay them- 
selves on like confidence. " We have all of us one 
human heart," and well-worn words come fresh to each 
lip when the grip of sorrow is felt. 

The division into pairs of verses is clear here. The 
burdened psalmist begins with a cry for help, passes 
on to dilate on the plots of his foes, turns swiftly from 
these to confidence in God, which brings future deliver- 
ance into present peril and sings of it as already 
accomplished, and ends with the assurance that his 
enemies* punishment will witness for God and gladden 
the upright. 

y In the first pair of verses complaint is sublimed into 
prayer, and so becomes strengthening instead of 
weakening. He who can cry '* Hear, O God, guard, 
hide " has already been able to hide in a safe refuge. 
" The terror caused by the enemy " is already dis- 
sipated when the trembling heart grasps at God ; and 
escape from facts which warrant terror will come in 
good time. This man knows himself to be in danger 
of his life. There are secret gatherings of his enemies, 
and he can almost hear their loud voices as they plan 
his ruin. What can he. do, in such circumstances, but 
fling himself on God l) No thought of resistance has 
he. He can hut pray, but he can pray ; and no man 
is helpess who can look up. However high and closely 
engirdling may be the walls that men or sorrows build 
around us, there is always an opening in the dungeon 

Ixiv.] THE PSALMS 243 

roof, through which heaven is visible and prayers can 
mount. "^ 

The next two pairs of verse (3-6) describe the 
machinations of the enemies in language for the most 
part familiar, but presenting some difficulties. The 
metaphors of a slanderous tongue as a sword and 
mischief-meaning words as arrows have occurred in 
several other psalms {e,g.^ Iv. 21 ; Ivii. 4 ; lix. 7). The 
reference may either be to calumnies or to murderous 
threats and plans. The latter is the more probable. 
Secret plots are laid, which are suddenly unmasked. 
From out of some covert of seeming friendship an 
unlooked-for arrow whizzes. The archers " shoot, and 
fear not." They are sure of remaining concealed, and 
fear neither man's detection of them nor God's. 

The same ideas are enlarged on in the third verse- 
pair (5, 6) under a new metaphor. Instead of arrows 
flying in secret, we have now snares laid to catch 
unsuspecting prey. " They strengthen themselves [in] 
an evil plan " (lit. word) pictures mutual encourage- 
ment and fixed determination. They discuss the best 
way of entrapping the psalmist, and, as in the preceding 
verse, flatter themselves that their subtle schemes are 
too well buried to be observed, whether by their victim 
or by God. Ver. 6 tells without a figure the fact 
meant in both figures. " They scheme villainies," and 
plume themselves upon the cleverness of their unsus- 
pected plots. The second clause of the verse is obscure. 
But the suppositions that in it the plotters speak as 
in the last clause of the preceding verse, and that 
** they say " or the like expression is omitted for the 
sake of dramatic effect, remove much of the difficulty. 
" We have schemed a well-schemed plan " is their 
complacent estimate. 


God's retribution scatters their dreams of impunity, 
as the next pair of verses (7, 8) tells. The verbs are 
in the past tense, though the events described are still 
in the future ; for the psalmist's faith reckons them to 
be as good as done. They were shooting at him. God 
will shoot at them. The archer becomes a target. 
" With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to 
you again." Punishment is moulded after the guise 
of sin. The allusion to ver. 4 is made more obvious 
by adopting a different division of ver. 7 from that 
directed by the accents, and beginning the second 
half with "Suddenly," as in ver. 4. Ver. 8 ^ is with 
difficulty made intelligible with the existing reading. 
Probably the best that can be done with it is to render 
it as above, though it must be acknowledged that " their 
tongue comes upon them " needs a good deal of ex- 
planation to be made to mean that the consequences of 
their sins of speech fall on them. The drift of the 
clause must be that retribution falls on the offending 
tongue ; but there is probably some textual corruption 
now unremovable. Cheyne wisely falls back on 
asterisks. Whatever is the precise nature of the 
instance of lex talionis in the clause, it is hailed with 
gestures of scornful approval by all beholders. Many 
men approve the Divine punishments, who have no 
deep horror of the sins that are punished. There is 
something of a noble, if rough, sense of justice in most 
men, and something of an ignoble satisfaction in seeing 
the downfall of the powerful, and both sentiments set 
heads nodding approval of God's judgments. 

The psalm closes with the familiar thought that 
these judgments will move to wholesome awe and be 
told from lip to lip, while they become to the righteous 
occasion of joy, incitements to find refuge in God, and 

Ixiv] THE PSALMS 245 

material for triumph. These are large consequences 
to flow from one man^s deliverance. The anticipation 
would be easily explained if we took the speaker to 
be the personified nation. But it would be equally 
intelligible if he were in any way a conspicuous or 
representative person. The humblest may feel that 
his experience of Divine deliverance witnesses, to as 
many as know it, of a delivering God. That is a high 
type of godliness which, like this psalmist, counts the 
future as so certain that it can be spoken of as present 
even in peril. It augurs a still higher to welcome 
deliverance, not only for the ease it brings to the 
suppliant, but for the glory it brings to God. 


1 To Thee silence is praise, O God, in Zion^ 
And to Thee shall the vow be paid. 

2 O Thou hearer of prayer, 
To Thee all flesh comes. 

3 Deeds of iniquity have been too strong for me: 
Our transgressions — Thou, Thou coverest them. 

4 Blessed is he whom Thou choosest and bringest near, 
That he may dwell in Thy courts : 

We would be filled with the goodness of Thy house, 
Thy holy temple. 

1 5 By dread deeds in righteousness Thou dost answer us, O God of 
our salvation, 
The confidence of all the ends of the earth and of the remotest 
sea : 

6 Setting fast the mountains by His strength. 
Being girded with might, 

7 Stilling the roar of the seas, the roar of their billows. 
And the tumult of the peoples. 

8 So that the inhabitants of the ends [of the earth] become afraid 

at Thy signs : 
The regions whence morning and evening come forth 
Thou makest to shout for joy. ^ 

9 Thou hast visited the land and watered it. 

Thou enrichest it abundantly [by] a river of God, full of water, 
Thou preparest their corn when thus Thou preparest it : 

10 Watering its furrows, levelling its ridges, 
With showers Thou softenest it. 

Its outgrowth Thou dost bless. 

1 1 Thou hast crowned the year of Thy goodness. 
And Thy chariot-tracks drop fatness. 


Ixv.] THE PSALMS 247 

12 The pastures of the wilderness drop, 

And the heights gird themselves with leaping gladness. 

13 The meadows are clothed with flocks, 
And the valleys are covered with corn, 
They shout for joy, they also sing. 

THIS and the two following psalms form a little 
group, with one great thought dominant in each 
— namely, that God's manifestations of grace and pro- 
vidence to Israel are witnesses to the world. They 
all reach out to " the ends of the earth " in yearning and 
confidence that God's name will be adored there, and 
they all regard His dealings with His people as His 
appeals to mankind, which will not always be vain. 
Psalm Ixv. begins with that privilege of approach to 
God with which Psalm Ixvi. ends. In both, iniquity in 
heart is regarded as hindering access to God ; and, in 
both, the psalmist's experience of answered prayer is 
treated as testimony for the world of the blessedness of 
worshipping Israel's God. This psalm falls into three 
parts, which set forth a threefold revelation of God in 
His acts. The first (w. 1-4) deals with the most 
intimate privileges of the men who dwell in His house. 
The second (vv. 5-8) points to His rule in nature, the 
tokens of God's power in the mighty things of creation 
— mountains, ocean, day and night, the radiant east, 
the solemn sunset- west. The third (vv. 9-13) gives 
a lovely picture of the annual miracle which brings 
harvest joys. The underlying thought binding these 
three parts into unity seems to be the witness to God's 
name which each set of His acts bears — a witness 
which " they that dwell in the uttermost parts " hear 
sounded in their ears. If this is the true view of the 
psalm, we may hear a reminiscence of it in Paul's 
remonstrance with the rude Lycaonian peasants : ** He 


left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, 
and gave you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, 
filling your hearts with food and gladness." 

The first strophe is wholly concerned with the glory 
of God as answering prayer. It begins with enigmatical 
words, which, if the existing text is adhered to, carry 
a deep truth. There are two kinds of prayer — wordless 
submission of will and spoken vows. The former is 
truly praise. The same thought is found in Psalm Ixii. 
It goes down to the root of the matter. The true 
notion of prayer is not that of swaying God's will to 
gratify ours, but that of bringing ours into unremon- 
strating acceptance of His. When the accents of eager 
desire or of impatient murmuring and vain sobs and 
weeping are hushed, the still soul enters into closeness 
of communion, else unattainable. Beautiful and pro- 
foundly true as this is, it is not indubitably the 
psalmist's meaning ; and there is much to be said for 
the rendering which is adopted from the LXX. by many 
commentators, and which only requires a slight change 
in the vocalisation — namely, *' Praise is meet for Thee." 
But that idea is expressed in Psalm xxxiii. i by a 
different word, and the meaning of the one used here 
is not to be suitable for^ but to be like. So that we have 
to choose between altering the text and then imposing 
a somewhat unusual meaning on the word gained, and 
adhering to the present reading and gaining a meaning 
which is admitted to be '*fine" but alleged to be 
" unbibhcal." On the whole, that meaning seems 
preferable. The convictions that God accepts silent 
devotion and answers vows, so that the thank-offering 
promised in trouble will be called for by deliverance, 
'* fill the psalmist with a longing that all mankind may 
have recourse to the same Divine Friend" (Cheyne, 

Ixv.] THE PSALMS 249 

in he). His experience of accepted prayers has taught 
him that it is God's nature and property to be "the 
hearer of prayer " (the word is a participle, expressive 
of a permanent characteristic), and therefore he is sure 
that "all flesh," in its weariness and need of an ear 
into which to pour necessities and sorrows, will come 
to Him. His eye travels far beyond Israel, and com- 
templates mankind as coming to worship. But one 
black barrier rises between men and God, the separating 
power of which the singer has painfully felt. Sin 
chokes the stream that would flow from seeking hearts 
into the ocean of God. The very act of gathering 
himself up to pray and praise quickens the sense of 
sinfulness in the psalmist. Therefore his look turns 
swiftly inwards, for the only time in the psalm. The 
consciousness of transgression wakes the sense of 
personality and isolation as nothing else will, and for 
one bitter moment the singer is, as it were, prisoned in 
the awful solitude of individual responsibility. His 
words reflect his vivid sight of his sins in their 
manifoldness, for he says that " matters of iniquities " 
have overcome him. The exuberant expression is not 
tautological, but emotional. And then he passes into 
sunshine again, and finds that, though he had to be 
alone in guilt, he is one of a company in the experience 
of forgiveness. Emphatically he reduplicates " Thou " 
in his burst of confidence in God's covering of sins ; for 
none but God can cope with the evil things that are too 
strong for man. I can neither keep them out, nor drive 
them out when they have come in, nor cleanse the 
stains that their hoofs have made ; but Thou, Thou 
canst and dost cover them. Is not that an additional 
reason for " all flesh " coming to God, and almost a 
guarantee that they will ? 


The strophe ends with an exclamation celebrating 
the blessedness of dwelling with God. That refers, 
no doubt, to Israel's prerogative of access to the 
Temple ; but the inward and outward are blended, as 
in many places in the Psalter where dwelling in the 
house of the Lord is yearned for or rejoiced in. The 
universalism of the psalm does not forget the special 
place held by the nation whom God " has chosen and 
brought near." But the reality beneath the symbol 
is too familiar and sweet to this singer for him to 
suppose that mere outward access exhausts the possi- 
bilities of blessed communion. It is no violent forcing 
more into his words than they contain, if we read in 
them deeply spiritual truths. It is noteworthy that 
they follow the reference to forgiveness, and, when 
taken in conjunction therewith, may be called an 
itinerary of the road to God. First comes forgiveness 
by expiation, for such is the meaning of "covering," 
Then the cleansed soul has " access with confidence " ; 
then approaching, it happily dwells a guest in the house, 
and is supplied with that which satisfies all desires. 
The guest's security in the house of his host, his right 
to protection, help, and food, are, as usual, implied in 
the imagery. The prerogative of his nation, which the 
psalmist had in mind, is itself imagery, and the reality 
which it shadowed is that close abiding in God which 
is possible by faith, love, communion of spirit, and 
obedience of life, and which, wherever realised, keeps 
a soul in a great calm, whatever tempests rave, and 
satisfies its truest needs and deepest longings, whatever 
famine may afflict the outward life. Forgiven men 
may dwell with God. They who do are blessed. 
I The second strophe (vv. 5-8) celebrates another 
aspect of God's manifestation by deeds, which has, in 

Ixv.] THE PSALMS 251 

like manner, a message for the ends of the earth. 
Israel is again the immediate recipient of God's acts, 
but they reverberate through the world. Therefore 
in ver. 5 the two clauses are not merely adjacent, but 
connected. It is because God is ever revealing Himself 
to the nation (for the tense of the verb '* answer" 
expresses continuous action) that He is revealed as the 
trust of the whole earth. God's grace fructifies through 
Israel to all. How clearly the psalmist had grasped the 
truth that God has limited the knowledge of Himself 
to one spot of earth in order to its universal diffusion^) 

The light is focussed and set in a tower that it may 
shine out over sea and storm. The fire is gathered 
into a brasier that it may warm all the house. Some 
commentators take that strong expression " the trust 
of all the ends of the earth " as asserting that even 
the confidences of idolaters in their gods are at bottom 
trust in Jehovah and find their way to Him. But such 
a view of idolatry is foreign to the Old Testament, 
and is not needed to explain the psalmist's words. 
God is the only worthy object of trust, and remains so 
whether men do in fact trust Him or not. And one 
day, thinks the psalmist, God's patient manifestation 
of His grace to Israel will tell, and all men will come 
to know Him for what He is. " The remotest sea " is 
not translation, but paraphrase. The psalmist speaks in 
vague terms, as one who knew not what lay beyond the 
horizon of that little-traversed western ocean. Literally 
his words are " the sea of the remote [peoples] " ; but 
a possible emendation has been suggested, reading 
instead oi sea "regions" or "nations." The change is 
slight, and smooths an awkward expression, but destroys 
the antithesis of earth and sea, and makes the second 
clause a somewhat weak repetition of the first. 


From the self-revelation of God in history the psalm 
passes to His mighty deeds in nature (w. 6, 7 «), and 
from these it returns to His providential guidance of 
human affairs (ver. J h\ The two specimens of Divine 
power celebrated in vv. 6, 7, are suggested by the 
closing words of ver. 5. " The ends of the earth " were, 
according to ancient cosmography, girdled by moun- 
tains ; and God has set these fast. The »dash of " the 
remotest seas " is hushed by Him. Two mighty things 
are selected to witness to the Mightier who made and 
manages them. The firm bulk of the mountains is firm 
because He is strong. The tossing waves are still 
because He bids them be silent. How transcendently 
great then is He, and how blind those who, seeing hill 
and ocean, do not see God 1 The mention of the sea, 
the standing emblem of unrest and rebellious power, 
suggests the " tumult of the peoples," on which similar 
repressive power is exercised. The great deeds of God, 
putting down tyranny and opposition to Israel, which 
is rebellion against Himself, strike terror, which is 
wholesome and is purified into reverence, into the 
distant lands; and so, from the place where the sun 
rises to the " sad-coloured end of evening " where it 
sinks in the west, />., through all the earth, there rings 
out a shout of joy. Such glowing anticipations of 
universal results from the deeds of God, especially for 
Israel, are the products of diseased national vanity, 
unless they are God-taught apprehension of the Divine 
purpose of Israel's history, which shall one day be 
fulfilled, when the knowledge of the yet more wondrous 
deeds which culminated in the Cross is spread to the 
ends of the earth and the remotest seas. 

God reveals Himself not only in the sanctities of His 
house, nor in His dread " signs " in nature and history, 


but in the yearly recurring harvest, which was waving, 
as yet unreaped, while the poet sang. The local 
colouring which regards rain as the chief factor in 
fertility and the special gift of God is noticeable. In 
such a land as Palestine, irrigation seems the one thing 
needful to turn desert into fruitful field. To " water " 
the soil is there emphatically to " enrich " it. The 
psalmist uses for "river" the technical word for an 
irrigation cutting, as if he would represent God in 
the guise of the cultivator, who digs his ditches that 
the sparkling blessing may reach all his field. But 
what a difference between men-made watercourses and 
God's I The former are sometimes flooded, but often 
dry ; His are full of water. The prose of the figure is, 
of course, abundant rain. It prepares the earth for the 
seed, and '' so " in effect prepares the corn. The one 
is the immediate, the other the ultimate issue and 
purpose. Spring showers prepare autumn fruits. It 
is so in all regions of man's endeavour and of God's 
work ; and it is practical wisdom to train ourselves to 
see the assurance of the end in His means, and to be 
confident that whatever His doings have a manifest 
tendency to effect shall one day be ripened and 
harvested. How lovingly and patiently the psalm 
represents the Divine Husbandman as attending to all 
the steps of the process needed for the great ingathering I 
He guides the showers, he fills the little valleys of the 
furrows, and smooths down the tiny hills of the inter- 
vening ridges. He takes charge of the germinating 
seed, and His sunshine smiles a benediction on the 
tender green blade, as it pricks through the earth which 
has been made soft enough for it to pierce from beneath. 
This unhesitating recognition of the direct action of 
God in all '* natural " processes is the true point of view 


from which to regard them. God is the only force; 
and His immediate action is present in all material 
changes. The Bible knows nothing of self-moving 
powers in nature, and the deepest conception of God's 
relations to things sensible knows as little. " There is 
no power but of God " is the last word of religion and 
of true philosophy. 

The poet stands in the joyous time when all the 
beauty of summer flushes the earth, and the harvest is 
yet a hope, not a possibly disappointing reality. It is 
near enough to fill his song with exultation. It is far 
enough off to let him look on the whitened fields, and 
not on the bristly stubble. So he regards the " crown " 
as already set on a year of goodness. He sees God's 
chariot passing in triumph and blessing over the land, 
and leaving abundance wherever its wheel-tracks go. 
Out in the uncultivated prairie, where sweet grass 
unsown by man grows, is the flush of greenery, where, 
before the rain, was baked and gaping earth. The hills, 
that wear a girdle of forest trees half-way up towards 
their barren summits, wave their foliage, as if glad. 
The white fleeces of flocks are dotted over the vivid 
verdure of every meadow, and one cannot see the 
ground for the tall corn that stands waiting for the 
sickle, in each fertile plain. The psalmist hears a hymn 
of glad praise rising from all these happy and sunny 
things ; and for its melody he hushes his own, that he 
and we may listen to 

"The fair music that all creatures make 
To their great Lord." 


1 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, 

2 Harp [unto] the glory of His name, 
Render glory [to Him by] His praise. 

3 Say to God, How dread are Thy works I 

For the greatness of Thy strength shall Thy enemies feign 
[submission] to Thee. 

4 All the earth shall bow down to Thee, and harp to Thee, 
They shall harp [to] Thy name. Selah. 

# 5 Come, and behold the deeds of God ; 

He is dread in His doing towards the sons of men* 

6 He turned the sea to dry land. 
They went through the river on foot, 
There let us rejoice in Him. 

7 He rules by His might for ever; 
His eyes watch the nations. 

The rebellious — let them not exalt themselves. SelahA 

8 Bless our God, ye peoples, 

And let the voice of His praise be heard 1 

9 Who has set our soul in life, 
And has not let our foot slip. 

10 For Thou hast proved us, O God, 

Thou hast refined us, as silver is refined. 

1 1 Thou hast brought us into the fortress-dungeon, 
Thou hast laid a heavy burden on our loins. 

12 Thou hast caused men to ride over our head. 
We have come into the fire and into the water, 
But Thou broughtest us out into abundance. 

13 I will go into Thy house with burnt o£feringa^ 
I will render to Thee my vows, 

14 Which my lips uttered, 

And my mouth spoke, in my straits. 


15 Burnt offerings of fatlings will I offer to Thee, 
With the savour of rams, 

I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah. 

16 Come, hearken, and I will recount, all ye that fear God, 
What He has done for my soul. 

17 To Him did I cry with my mouth, 

And a song extolling [Him] was [already] under my tongue. 

18 If I had intended iniquity in my heart, 
The Lord would not hear : 

19 But surely God has heard. 

He has attended to the voice of my prayer, 

20 Blessed be God, 

Who has not turned away my prayer, nor His loving-kindness 
from me. 

THE most striking feature of this psalm is the 
transition from the plural "we" and "our," in 
w. 1-12, to the singular "I" and "my," in w. 13-20. 
Ewald supposes that two independent psalms have 
been united, but ver. 12 is as abrupt for an ending as 
ver. 1 3 is for a beginning ; and the " Come, hear," of 
ver. 16 echoes the "Come, and see," of ver. 5. It is 
possible that " the * I ' of the second part is identical with 
the ' we * of the first ; in other words, that the personified 
community speaks here " (Baethgen) ; but the supposi- 
tion that the psalm was meant for public worship, and 
is composed of a choral and a solo part, accounts for 
the change of number. Such expressions as "my 
soul " and " my heart " favour the individual reference. 
Of course, the deliverance magnified by the single 
voice is the same as that celebrated by the loud acclaim 
of many tongues ; but there is a different note in the 
praise of the former — there is a tone of inwardness in 
it, befitting individual appropriation of general blessings. 
To this highest point, that of the action of the single 
soul in taking the deliverances of the community for 

Ixvi.] THE PSALMS 257 

its very own, and pouring out its own praise, the 
psalm steadily climbs. It begins with the widest out- 
look over ''all the earth," summoned to ring forth 
joyous praise. It ends focussed to one burning point, 
in a heart fired by the thought that God "has not 
turned away his loving-kindness from meT So we 
learn how each single soul has to claim its several part 
in world-wide blessings, as each flower-calyx absorbs 
the sunshine that floods the pastures. 

The psalm has no superscription of date or author, 
and no clue in its language to the particular deliverance 
that called it forth. The usual variety of conjectures 
have been hazarded. The defeat of Sennacherib 
occurs to some ; the return from Babylon to others ; 
the Maccabean period to yet another school of critics. 
It belongs to a period when Israel's world-significance 
and mission were recognised (which Cheyne considers 
a post-exilic feature, "Orig. of Psalt., " 176), and when 
the sacrificial worship was in full force ; but beyond 
these there are no clear data for period of composition. 

It is divided into five strophes, three of which are 
marked by Selah. That musical indication is wanting 
at the close of the third strophe (ver. 12), which is 
also the close of the first or choral part, and its absence 
may be connected with the transition to a single voice. 
A certain progress in thought is noticeable, as will 
appear as we proceed. The first strophe calls upon 
all the earth to praise God for His works. The special 
deeds which fire the psalmist are not yet mentioned, 
though they are present to his mind. The summons 
of the world to praise passes over into prophecy that 
it shall praise. The manifestation of God's character 
by act will win homage. The great thought that God 
has but to be truly known in order to be reverenced 

VOL. II. 17 


is an axiom with this psalmist ; and no less certain is 
he that such knowledge and such praise will one day 
fill the world. True, he discerns that submission will 
not always be genuine ; for he uses the same word to 
express it as occurs in Psalm xviii. 44, which represents 
'* feigned homage." Every great religious awakening has 
a fringe of adherents, imperfectly affected by it, whose 
professions outrun reality, though they themselves 
are but half conscious that they feign. But though 
this sobering estimate of the shallowness of a widely 
diffused recognition of God tones down the psalmist's 
expectations, and has been abundantly confirmed by 
later experience, his great hope remains as an early 
utterance of the conviction, which has gathered assur- 
ance and definiteness by subsequent Revelation, and is 
now familiar to all. The world is God's. His Self- 
revelation will win hearts. There shall be true sub- 
mission and joyous praise, girdling the earth as it rolls. 
The psalmist dwells mainly on the majestic and awe- 
inspiring aspect of God's acts. His greatness of power 
bears down opposition. But the later strophes introduce 
other elements of the Divine nature and syllables of 
the Name, though the inmost secret of the "power 
of God " in the weakness of manhood and the all- 
conquering might of Love is not yet ripe for utterance. 
(The second strophe advances to a closer contem- 
plation of the deeds of God, which the nations are 
summoned to behold. He is not only " dread " in His 
doings towards mankind at large, but Israel's history 
is radiant with the manifestation of His name, and 
that past lives on, so that ancient experiences give the 
measure and manner of to-day's working. The retro- 
spect embraces the two standing instances of God's 
delivering help — the passage of the Red Sea and of 

Ixvi.] THE PSALMS 259 

Jordan — and these are not dead deeds in a far-off 
century. For the singer calls on his own generation 
to rejoice *' there " in Him: Ver. 6 c is by some trans- 
lated as " There did we rejoice," and more accurately 
by others, "Let us rejoice." In the former case the 
essential solidarity of all generations of the nation is 
most vividly set forth. But the same idea is involved 
in the correct rendering, according to which the men 
of the psalmist's period are entitled and invoked to 
associate themselves in thought with that long-past 
generation, and to share in their joy, since they do 
possess the same power which wrought then. God's 
work is never antiquated. It is all a revelation of 
eternal activities. What He has been. He is. What 
He did, He does. Therefore faith may feed on all 
the records of old time, and expect the repetition of all 
that they contain. Such an application of history to 
the present makes the nerve of this strophe. For 
ver. 7, following on the retrospect, declares the per- 
petuity of God's rule, and that His eyes still keep an 
outlook, as a watchman on a tower might do, to mark 
the enemies' designs, in order that He may intervene, as 
of old, for His people's deliverance. He " looked forth 
upon the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of 
cloud" (Exod. xiv. 24). Thus He still marks the 
actions and plans of Israel's foes. Therefore it were 
wise for the "rebellious" not to rear their heads so 
high in oppositioi^ 

The third strophe comes still closer to the particular 
deliverance underlying the psalm. Why should all 
" peoples " be called upon to praise God for it ? The 
psalmist has learned that Israel's history is meant to 
teach the world what God is, and how blessed it 
is to dwell under His wing. No exclusiveness taints 


his enjoyment of special national privileges. He has 
reached a height far above the conceptions of the rest 
of the world in his day, and even in this day, except 
where the Christian conception of "humanity" has 
been heartily accepted. Whence came this width of 
view, this purifying from particularism, this anticipa- 
tion by so many centuries of a thought imperfectly 
realised even now ? Surely a man who in those days 
and with that environment could soar so high must 
have been lifted by something mightier than his own 
spirit. The details of the Divine dealings described 
in the strophe are of small consequence in comparison 
with its fixed expectation of the world's participation 
in Israel's blessings. The familiar figures for affliction 
reappear — namely, proving and refining in a furnace. 
A less common metaphor is that of being prisoned in 
a dungeon^ as the word rendered " net " in the A.V. and 
R.V. probably means. Another peculiar image is that o 
ver. 12 : *' Thou hast caused men to ride over our head." 
The word for " men " here connotes feebleness and 
frailty, characteristics which make tyranny more in- 
tolerable ; and the somewhat harsh metaphor is best 
explained as setting forth insolent and crushing domina- 
tion, whether the picture intended is that of ruthless 
conquerors driving their chariots over their prone 
victims, or that of their sitting as an incubus on their 
shoulders and making them like beasts of burden. Fire 
and water are standing figures for affliction. With 
great force these accumulated symbols of oppression are 
confronted by one abrupt clause ending the strophe, 
and describing in a breath the perfect deliverance 
which sweeps them all away : " Thou broughtest us 
out into abundance." There is no need for the textual 
alteration of the last word into "a wide place " (Hupfeld), 

Ixvi.] THE PSALMS 261 

a place of liberty (Cheyne), or freedom (Baethgen). 
The word in the received text is that employed in 
Psalm xxiii. 5. "My cup is overfulness^^ and "abund- 
ance " yields a satisfactory meaning here, though not 
closely corresponding to any of the preceding metaphors 
for affliction. 

The fourth strophe (w. 1 3-1 5) begins the solo part. 
It clothes in a garb appropriate to a sacrificial system 
the thought expressed in more spiritual dress in the 
next strophe, that God's deliverance should evoke men's 
praise. The abundance and variety of sacrifices named, 
and the fact that " rams " were not used for the offer- 
ings of individuals, seem to suggest that the speaker 
is, in some sense, representing the nation, and it has 
been supposed that he may be the high priest. But 
this is merely conjecture, and the explanation may be 
that there is a certain ideal and poetical tone over the 
representation, which does not confine itself to scrupu- 
lous accuracy. 

The last strophe (vv. 16-20) passes beyond sacri- 
ficial symbols, and gives the purest utterance to the 
emotions and resolves which ought to well up in 
a devout soul on occasion of God's goodness. Not 
only does the psalmist teach us how each individual 
must take the general blessing for his very own — of 
which act the faith which takes the world s Christ for 
my Christ is the supreme example — but he teaches us 
that the obligation laid on all recipients of God's mercy 
is to tell it forth, and that the impulse is as certain to 
follow real reception as the command is imperative. 
Just as Israel received deliverances that the whole earth 
might learn how strong and gracious was Israel's God, 
we receive His blessings, and chiefly His highest gift of 
life in Christ, not only that we may live, but that, hving. 


we may "declare the works of the Lord." He has little 
possession of God's grace who has not felt the neces- 
sity of speech, and the impossibility of the lips being 
locked when the heart is full. 

The psalmist tells his experience of God's answers 
to his prayer in a very striking fashion. Ver. 17 says 
that he cried to God ; and while his uttered voice was 
supplication, the song extolling God for the deliverance 
asked was, as it were, lying under his tongue, ready to 
break forth, — so sure was he that his cry would be 
heard. That is a strong faith which prepares banners 
and music for the triumph before the battle is fought. 
It would be presumptuous folly, not faith, if it rested 
on anything less certain than God's power and will. 

" I find David making a syllogism in mood and 
figure. ... * If I regard iniquity in my heart, the 
Lord will not hear me : but verily God hath heard 
me ; He hath aUended to the voice of my prayer.' 
Now, I expected that David would have concluded thus : 
* Therefore I regard not wickedness in my heart.' But 
far otherwise he concludes : ' Blessed be God, who 
hath not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from 
me.' Thus David hath deceived but not wronged me. 
I looked that he should have clapped the crown on 
his own, and he puts it on God's head. I will learn 
this excellent logic." So says Fuller (^' Good Thoughts 
in Bad Times," p. 34, Pickering's ed., 1 841). No 
doubt, however, the psalmist means to suggest, though 
he does not state, that his prayer was sincere. There 
is no self-complacent attribution of merit to his suppli- 
cation, in the profession that it was untainted by any 
secret, sidelong looking towards evil ; and Fuller is 
right in emphasising the suppression of the statement. 
But even the appearance of such is avoided by the jet 

Ixvi.] THE PSALMS 263 

of praise which closes the psalm. Its condensed brevity 
has induced some critics to mend it by expansion, as 
they regard it as incongruous to speak of turning away 
a man^s prayer from himself. Some would therefore 
insert ** from Him " after '* my prayer," and others 
would expand still further by inserting an appropriate 
negative before " His loving-kindness." But the slight 
incongruity does not obscure the sense, and brings out 
strongly the flow of thought. So fully does the psalmist 
feel the connection between God's loving-kindness and 
his own prayer, that these are, as it were, smelted into 
one in his mind, and the latter is so far predominant 
in his thoughts that he is unconscious of the anomaly 
of his expression. To expand only weakens the swing 
of the words and the power of the thought. It is 
possible to tame lyric outbursts into accuracy at the 
cost of energy. Psalmists are not bound to be correct 
in style. Rivers wind ; canals are straight 


1 God be gracious to us, and bless us, 

And cause His face to shine among us; Selalk 

2 That Thy way may be known upon earth, 
Thy salvation among all nations. 

3 Let peoples give Thee thanks, O God, 

Let peoples, all of them, give Thee thanks. 

4 Let tribes rejoice and shout aloud, 
For Thou wilt judge peoples in equity. 

And tribes on the earth wilt Thou lead. Selah. 

5 Let peoples give Thee thanks, O God, 
Let peoples, all of them, give Thee thanks. 

i 6 The earth has yielded her increase : 
May God, [even] our God, bless us 1 
7 May God bless us. 
And may all the ends of the earth fear Him ! J 

1'^HIS little psalm condenses the dominant thought 
of the two preceding into a series of aspirations 
after Israel's blessing, and the consequent diffusion of 
the knowledge of God's way among all lands. Like 
Psalm Ixv., it sees in abundant harvests a type and 
witness of God's kindness. But, whereas in Psalm Ixv. 
the fields were covered with corn, here the increase has 
been gathered in. The two psalms may or may not be 
connected in date of composition as closely as these 
two stages of one harvest-time. 

The structure of the psalm has been variously con- 
ceived. Clearly the Selahs do not guide as to divisions 
in the flow of thought. But it may be noted that the 


Uvii.] THE PSALMS 265 

seven verses in the psalm have each two clauses, with 
the exception of the middle one (ver. 4), which has 
three. Its place and its abnormal length mark it as the 
core, round which, as it were, the whole is built up. 
Further, it is as if encased in two verses (vv. 3, 5), 
which, in their four clauses, are a fourfold repetition 
of a single aspiration. These three verses are the 
heart of the psalm — the desire that all the earth may 
praise God, whose providence blesses it all. They are 
again enclosed in two strophes of two verses each 
(w. I, 2, and 6, 7), which, like the closer wrapping 
round the core, are substantially parallel, and, unlike 
it, regard God's manifestation to Israel as His great 
witness to the world. Thus, working outwards from 
the central verse, we have symmetry of structure, and 
intelligible progress and distinctness of thought. 

Another point of difficulty is the rendering of the 
series of verbs in the psalm. Commentators are 
unanimous in taking those of ver. I as expressions of 
desire ; but they bewilderingly diverge in their treat- 
ment of the following ones. Details of the divergent 
interpretations, or discussions of their reasons, cannot 
be entered on here. It may be sufficient to say that 
the adherence throughout to the optative rendering, 
admitted by all in ver. i, gives a consistent colouring 
to the whole. It is arbitrary to vary the renderings in 
so short a psalm. But, as is often the case, the aspira- 
tions are so sure of their correspondence with the 
Divine purpose that they tremble on the verge of being 
prophecies, as, indeed, all wishes that go out along the 
line of God's *' way " are. Every deep, God-inspired 
longing whispers to its utterer assurance that so it 
shall be ; and therefore such desires have ever in them 
an element of fruition, and know nothing of the pain 


of earthly wishes. They who stretch out empty hands 
to God never "gather dust and chaff." 

The priestly blessing (Numb. vi. 24-26) moulds ver. I, 
but with the substitution of God for Jehovah^ and of 
*' among us" for *'upon us." The latter variation gives 
an impression of closer contact of men with the lustre of 
that Divine Light, and of yet greater condescension in 
God. The soul's longing is not satisfied by even the 
fullest beams of a Light that is fixed on high ; it dares 
to wish for the stooping of the Sun to dwell among us. 
The singer speaks in the name of the nation ; and, by 
using the priestly formula, claims for the whole people 
the sacerdotal dignity which belonged to it by its 
original constitution. He gives that idea its widest 
extension. Israel is the world's high priest, lifting up 
intercessions and holy hands of benediction for mankind. 
What self-effacement, and what profound insight into 
and sympathy with the mind of God breathe in that 
collocation of desires, in which the gracious lustre of 
God's face shining on us is longed for, chiefly that 
thence it may be reflected into the dark places of earth, 
to gladden sad and seeking eyes 1 This psalmist did 
not know in how true a sense the Light would come 
to dwell among men of Israel's race, and thence to 
flood the world ; but his yearning is a foreshadowing of 
the spirit of Christianity, which forbids self-regarding 
monopoly of its blessings. If a man is " light in the 
Lord," he cannot but shine. '* God hath shined into our 
hearts, that we may give the light of the knowledge of 
the glory of God." A Church illuminated with a mani- 
festly Divine light is the best witness for God. Eyes 
which cannot look on the Sun may gaze at the clouds, 
which tone down its colourless radiance into purple 
and gold. 

Ixvii.] THE PSALMS 267 

The central core of the psalm may either be taken 
as summons to the nations or as expression of desire 
for them. The depth of the longing or the stringency 
of the summons is wonderfully given by that fourfold 
repetition of the same words in w. 3 and 5, with the 
emphatic " all of them " in the second clause of each. 
Not less significant is the use of three names for the 
aggregations of men — nations (ver. 2), peoples, and 
tribes. All are included, whatever bond knits them in 
communities, whatever their societies call themselves, 
however many they are. The very vagueness gives 
sublimity and universality. We can fill the vast out- 
line drawn by these sweeping strokes ; and wider 
knowledge should not be attended with narrowed 
desires, nor feebler confidence that the Light shall 
lighten every land. It is noticeable that in this central 
portion the deeds of God among the nations are set 
forth as the ground of their praise and joy in Him. 
Israel had the light of His face, and that would draw 
men to Him. But all peoples have the strength of 
His arm to be their defender, and the guidance of His 
hand by providences and in other ways unrecognised 
by them. The "judgments " here contemplated are, 
of course, not retribution for evil, but the aggregate of 
dealings by which God shows His sovereignty in all 
the earth. The psalmist does not believe that God's 
goodness has been confined to Israel, nor that the rest 
of the world has been left orphaned. He agrees with 
Paul, ^' That which may be known of God is manifest 
in them, for God manifested it to them." 

flThe final strophe (vv. 6, 7) is substantially a repeti- 
tion of vv. I, 2, with the addition that a past fact is 
laid as the foundation of the desires or hopes of future 
blessings. '*The earth has yielded her increase." 


This may show that the psalm is a harvest hymn, but 
it does not necessarily imply this. The thought may 
have been born at any time. The singer takes the 
plain fact that, year by year, by mysterious quickening 
which he recognises as of God, the fertile earth " causes 
the things sown in it to bring forth and bud," as an 
evidence of Divine care and kindliness, which warrants 
the desire and the confidence that all blessings will be 
given) It seems a large inference from such a premise ; 
but it is legitimate for those who recognise God as 
working in nature, and have eyes to read the parables 
amid which we live. The psalmist reminds God of 
His own acts, and, further, of His own name, and 
builds on these his petitions and his faith. Because 
He is *' our God" He will bless us ; and since the earth 
has, by His gift, "yielded her increase," He will give 
the better food which souls need. This the singer 
desires, not only because he and his brethren need it, 
but because a happy people are the best witnesses for 
a good King, and worshippers ** satisfied with favour 
and full of the blessing of the Lord " proclaim most 
persuasively, " Taste, and see that God is good." This 
psalm is a truly missionary psalm, in its clear antici- 
pation of the universal spread of the knowledge of God, 
in its firm grasp of the thought that the Church has 
its blessings in order to the evangelisation of the world, 
and in its intensity of longing that from all the ends of 
the earth a shout of praise may go up to the God who 
has sent some rays of His light into them all, and com- 
mitted to His people the task of carrying a brighter 
illumination to every land 


fl Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, 
And let them who hate Him flee before Him, 

2 As smoke is whirled, whirl [them] away : 
As wax melts before fire, 

May the wicked perish before God ! 

3 But may the righteous rejoice [and] exult before God, 
And be mirthful in joy, 

4 Sing to God, harp [to] His name : 

Throw up a way for Him who rides through the deserts; 
[In] Jah is His name ; and exult ye before Him ; 

5 The orphans' father and the widows' advocate, 
God in His holy dwelling-place, 

6 God, who makes the solitary to dwell in a hora^ 
Who brings out the prisoners into prosperity : 
Yet the rebellious inhabit a burnt-up land.) 

7 O God, at Thy going forth before Thy people, 

At Thy marching through the wilderness ; Selah. 

8 The earth quaked, the heavens also dropped before God ; 
Yonder Sinai [quaked] before God, the God of Israel. 

9 With a gracious rain, O God, Thou didst besprinkle Thine in- 

heritance ; 
And [when it was] faint. Thou didst refresh it. 

10 Thine assembly dwelt herein : 

Thou didst prepare in Thy goodness for the poor, O God. 

1 1 The Lord gives the word : 

The women telling the good tidings are a great army. 

12 Kings of armies flee, they flee : 

And the home-keeping [woman] divides the spoil. 

13 Will ye lie among the sheep-pens ? 

[Ye shall be as] the wings of a dove that is covered with silver, (?) 
. And her pinions with yellow gold. 

14 When the Almighty scattered kings in it^ 
It snowed in Salmon^ 



15 A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan, 

A many-peaked mountain is the mountain of Bashan. 

16 Why look ye with envy, O many-peaked mountains, 
On the mountain which God has desired to dwell in ? 
Yea, God will abide in it for ever. 

17 The chariots of God are myriads and myriads, thousands on 

thousands : 
God is among them ; 
Sinai is in the sanctuary. 

18 Thou hast ascended on high, 

Thou hast led captive a band of captives, 

Thou hast taken gifts among men, 

Yea, even the rebellious shall dwell with Jah, God. 

19 Blessed be the Lord I 

Day by day He bears our burdens, 
Even the God [who is] our salvation. 

20 God is to us a God of deliverances, 

And Jehovah the Lord has escape from death, 

21 Yea, God will crush the head of His enemies. 

The hairy skull of him that goes on in his guiltiness. 

22 The Lord has said, From Bashan I will bring back, 
I will bring back from the depths of the sea : 

23 That thou mayest bathe thy foot in blood. 

That the tongue of thy dogs may have its portion from the enemy. 

24 They have seen Thy goings, O God, 

The goings of my God, my King, into the sanctuary 

25 Before go singers, after [come] those who strike the strings, 
In the midst of maidens beating timbrels. 

26 " In the congregations bless ye God, 

The Lord, [ye who spring] from the fountain of Israel,** 

27 There was little Benjamin their ruler, (?) 

The princes of Judah, their shouting multitude, 
The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali. 

28 Command, O God, Thy strength. 

Show Thyself strong, O God, Thou that hast wrought for ua 

29 From Thy temple above Jerusalem 
Unto Thee shall kings bring presents, 

30 Rebuke the beast of the reeds, 

The herd of bulls, with the calves of the peoples ; 
Tread down those that have pleasure in silver; (?) 
Scatter the peoples that delight in wars. 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 271 

31 Great ones shall come from Egypt, 

Cush shall quickly stretch out her hands to God. 

32 Ye kingdoms of the earth, sing to God ; 
Harp [unto] the Lord ; Selah. 

33 To Him who rides on the heavens of heavens, [which are] of old ; 
Lo, He utters His voice, a voice of strength. 

34 Ascribe to God strength, 

Whose majesty is over Israel, and His strength in the clouds. 

35 Dread [art Thou], O God, from Thy sanctuaries, 
The God of Israel, 

He gives strength and fulness of might to His people. 
Blessed be God ! 

THIS superb hymn is unsurpassed, if not unequalled, 
in grandeur, lyric fire, and sustained rush of 
triumphant praise. It celebrates a victory ; but it is 
the victory of the God who enters as a conqueror into 
His sanctuary. To that entrance (vv. 15-18) all the 
preceding part of the psalm leads up ; and from it all 
the subsequent part flows down. The Exodus is recalled 
as the progress of a king at the head of his hosts, 
and old paeans re-echo. That dwelling of God in the 
sanctuary is *' for ever." Therefore in the second part 
of the psalm (vv. 19-35) i^^ consequences for the 
psalmist's generation and for the future are developed 
— Israelis deliverance, the conquest of the nations, and 
finally the universal recognition of God's sovereignty 
and ringing songs sent up to Him. 

The Davidic authorship is set aside as impossible 
by most recent commentators, and there is much in 
the psalm which goes against it ; but, on the other 
hand, the Syro-Ammonite war (2 Sam. xi,), in which 
the ark was taken into the field, is not unnaturally 
supposed by Delitzsch and others to explain the 
special reference to the entrance of God into the 
sanctuary. The numerous quotations and allusions 


are urged as evidence of late date, especially the 
undeniable resemblance with Isaiah II. But the 
difficulty of settling which of two similar passages is 
original and which copy is great ; and if by one critical 
canon such allusions are marks of lateness, by another, 
rugged obscurities, such as those with which this psalm 
bristles, are evidences of an early date. 

The mention of only four tribes in ver. 27 is 
claimed as showing that the psalm was written when 
Judaea and Galilee were the only orthodox districts, and 
central Palestine was in the hands of the Samaritans. 
But could there be any talk of "princes of Zebulun 
and Naphtali " then ? The exultant tone of the 
psalm makes its ascription to such a date as the age of 
the Ptolemies unlikely, when " Israel is too feeble, too 
depressed, to dream of self-defence ; and, if God does 
not soon interpose, will be torn to pieces" (Cheyne, 
"Aids to the Devout Study," etc., 335). 

To the present writer it does not appear that the 
understanding and enjoyment of this grand psalm 
depend so much on success in dating it as is supposed. 
It may be post-exilic. Whoever fused its reminiscences 
of ancient triumph into such a glowing outburst of 
exultant faith, his vision of the throned God and his 
conviction that ancient facts reveal eternal truths 
remain for all generations as an encouragement of trust 
and a prophecy of God's universal dominion. 

The main division at ver. 18 parts the psalm into 
two equal halves, which are again easily subdivided 
into strophes. 

/The first strophe (w. 1-6) may be regarded as 
introductory to the chief theme of the first half— namely, 
the triumphant march of the conquering God to His 
sanctuary. It consists of invocation to Him to arise. 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 273 

and of summons to His people to prepare His way and 
to meet Him with ringing gladness. The ground of 
both invocation and summons is laid in an expansion of 
the meaning of His name as Helper of the helpless, 
Deliverer of the captive, righteous, and plentifully 
rewarding the proud doen*^ The invocation echoes the 
Mosaic prayer ** when the ark set forward " (Numb. 
X. 35), with the alteration of the tense of the verb 
from a simple imperative into a precative future, and of 
" Jehovah " into God. This is the first of the quota- 
tions characteristic of the psalm, which is penetrated 
throughout with the idea that the deeds of the past are 
revelations of permanent relations and activities. The 
ancient history glows with present life. Whatever 
God has done He is doing still. No age of the Church 
needs to look back wistfully to any former, and say, 
" Where be all His wondrous works which our fathers 
have told us of?" The twofold conditions of God's 
intervention are, as this strophe teaches, Israel's cry to 
Him to arise, and expectant diligence in preparing His 
way. The invocation, which is half of Israel's means 
of insuring His coming, being a quotation, the summons 
to perform the other half is naturally regarded by the 
defenders of the post-exilic authorship as borrowed 
from Isaiah II. {e.g.y xl. 3, Ivii. 14, Ixii. 10), while the 
supporters of an earlier date regard the psalm as the 
primary passage from which the prophet has drawn. 

God ** arises" when He displays by some signal act 
His care for His people. That strong anthropomorphism 
sets forth the plain truth that there come crises in 
history, when causes, long silently working, suddenly 
produce their world-shaking effects. God has seemed 
to sit passive ; but the heavens open, and all but blind 
eyes can see Him, standing ready to smite that He may 

VOL. II. 18 


deliver. When He rises to His feet, the enemy scatters 
in panic. His presence revealed is enough. The 
emphatic repetition of " before " in these verses is 
striking, especially when fully rendered, — from His 
face (ver. i) ; from the face of the fire (ver. 2) ; from 
the face of God (ver. 2) ; before His face (vv. 3, 4). 
To His foes that face is dreadful, and they would fain 
cower away from its light ; His friends sun themselves 
in its brightness. The same fire consumes and vivifies. 
All depends on the character of the recipients. In the 
psalm " the righteous " are Israel, the ideal nation ; the 
" wicked " are its heathen foes ; but the principle under- 
lying the fervid words demands a real assimilation of 
moral character to the Divine, as a condition of being 
at ease in the Light. 

The "deserts" are, in consonance with the imme- 
diately following reminiscences, those of the Exodus. 
Hupfeld and those who discover in the psalm the hopes 
of the captives in Babylon, take them to be the waste 
wilderness stretching between Babylon and Palestine. 
But it is better to see in them simply a type drawn 
from the past, of guidance through any needs or 
miseries. Vv. 5, 6, draw out at length the blessed 
significance of the name Jah, in order to hearten to 
earnest desire and expectance of Him. They are best 
taken as in apposition with "Him" in ver. 4. Well 
may we exult before Him who is the orphans' father, 
the widows' advocate. There may be significance in 
the contrast between what He is " in His holy habita- 
tion " and when He arises to ride through the deserts. 
Even in the times when he seems to be far above, 
dwelling in the separation of His unapproachable 
holiness, He is still caring and acting for the sad and 
helpless. But when He comes forth, it is to make the 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 275 

solitary to dwell in a home, to bring out prisoners into 
prosperity. Are these simply expressions for God's 
general care of the afflicted, like the former clauses, or 
do they point back to the Exodus? A very slight 
change in the text gives the reading, "Makes the 
solitary to return home " ; but even without that altera- 
tion, the last clause of the verse is so obviously an 
allusion to the disobedient, " whose carcasses fell in the 
wilderness," that the whole verse is best regarded as 
pointing back to that time. The " home " to which the 
people were led is the same as the " prosperity " into 
which the prisoners are brought — namely, the rest and 
well-being of Canaan ; while the fate of the " rebellious " 
is, as it ever is, to live and die amidst the drought- 
stricken barrenness which they have chosen. 

With the second strophe (vv. 7- 10) begins the his- 
torical retrospect, which is continued till, at the end of 
the fourth (ver. 1 8), God is enthroned in the sanctuary, 
there to dwell for ever. In the second strophe the 
wilderness life is described. The third (vv. 11- 14) tells 
of the victories which won the land. The fourth 
triumphantly contrasts the glory of the mountain where 
God at last has come to dwell, with the loftier peaks 
across the Jordan on which no such lustre gleams. 

Vv. 7, 8, are from Deborah's song, with slight 
omissions and alterations, notably of " Jehovah " into 
" God." The phrase ^' before " still lings in the psalmist's 
ears, and he changes Deborah's words, in the first clause 
of ver. 7, so as to give the picture of God marching 
in front of His people, instead of, as the older song 
represented Him, coming from the east, to meet them 
marching from the west. The majestic theophany at 
the giving of the Law is taken as the culmination of 
His manifestations in the wilderness. Vv. 9, 10, are 


capable of two applications. According to one, they 
anticipate the chronological order, and refer to the 
fertility of the land, and the abundance enjoyed by 
Israel when established there. According to the other, 
they refer to the sustenance of the people in the wilder- 
ness. The former view has in its favour the ordinary 
use of " inheritance " for the land, the likelihood that 
^' rain " should be represented as falling on soil rather 
than on people, and the apparent reference in " dwelt 
therein," to the settlement in Canaan. The objection 
to it is that reference to peaceful dwelling in the 
land is out of place, since the next strophe pictures 
the conquest. If, then, the verses belong to the 
age of wandering, to what do they refer? Hupfeld 
tries to explain the " rain " as meaning the manna, 
and, still more improbably, takes the somewhat enig- 
matical "assembly" of ver. lo to mean (as it certainly 
does) "living creatures," and to allude (as it surely 
does not) to the quails that fell round the camp. 
Most commentators now agree in transferring " thine 
inheritance " to the first clause, and in understanding 
it of the people, not of the land. The verse is intelli- 
gible either as referring to gifts of refreshment of spirit 
and courage bestowed on the people, in which case 
'* rain " is symbolical ; or to actual rainfall during the 
forty years of desert life, by which sowing and reaping 
were made possible. The division of the verse as in 
our translation is now generally adopted. The allusion 
to the provision of corn in the desert is continued in 
ver. lO, in which the chief difficulty is the ambiguous 
word " assembly." It may mean " living creatures," and 
is so taken here by the LXX. and others. It is twice 
used in 2 Sam. xxii. ii (?), 13, for an army. Dehtzsch 
atkes it a$ a comparison of Israel to a flock, thus 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 277 

retaining the meaning of creatures. If the verse is 
interpreted as alluding to Israel's wilderness life, 
" therein " must be taken in a somewhat irregular 
construction, since there is no feminine noun at hand to 
which the feminine pronominal suffix in the word can be 
referred. In that barren desert, God's flock dwelt for 
more than a generation, and during all that time His 
goodness provided for them. The strophe thus gives 
two aspects of God's manifestation in the wilderness — 
the majestic and terrible, and the gentle and beneficent. 
In the psalmist's triumphant retrospect no allusion is 
made to the dark obverse — Israel's long ingratitude. 
The same history which supplies other psalmists and 
prophets with material for penetrating accusations 
yields to this one only occasion of praise. God's part 
is pure goodness ; man's is shaded with much rebellious 

The next strophe (vv. 1 1-14) is abrupt and discon- 
nected, as if echoing the hurry of battle and the tumult 
of many voices on the field. The general drift is 
unmistakable, but the meaning of part is the despair 
of commentators. The whole scene of the conflict, 
flight, and division of the spoil is flashed before us in 
brief clauses, panting with excitement and blazing with 
the glow of victory. " The Lord giveth the word." 
That "word" may be the news which the women 
immediately repeat. But it is far more vivid and truer 
to the spirit of the psalm, which sees God as the only 
actor in Israel's history, to regard it as the self-fulfilling 
decree which scatters the enemy. This battle is the 
Lord's. There is no description of conflict. But one 
mighty word is hurled from heaven, like a thunder-clap 
(the phrase resembles that employed so often, "the 
Lord gave His voice," which frequently means thunder- 


peals), and the enemies* ranks are broken in panic. 
Israel does not need to fight. God speaks, and the next 
sound we hear is the clash of timbrels and the clear 
notes of the maidens chanting victory. This picture of 
a battle, with the battle left out, tells best Who fought, 
and how He fought it. " He spake, and it was done," 
What scornful picture of the flight is given by the 
reduplication " they flee, they flee " 1 It is like Deborah's 
fierce gloating over the dead Sisera : *' He bowed, he fell, 
he lay : at her feet he bowed, he fell : where he bowed, 
there he fell." What confidence in the power of weak- 
ness, when God is on its side, in the antithesis between 
the mighty kings scattered in a general sauve qui peuty 
and the matrons who had " tarried at home " and now 
divide the spoil I Sisera's mother was pictured in 
Deborah's song as looking long through her lattice for 
her son's return, and solacing herself with the thought 
that he delayed to part the plunder and would come 
back laden with it. What she vainly hoped for Israel's 
matrons enjoy. 

Vv. 13, 14, are among the hardest in the Psalter. 
The separate clauses offer no great difficulties, but the 
connection is enigmatical indeed. " Will (lit. if) ye lie 
among the sheepfolds ? " comes from Deborah's song 
(Judg. v. 16), and is there a reproach flung at Reuben 
for preferring pastoral ease to warlike effort. Is it 
meant as reproach here ? It is very unlikely that a 
song of triumph like this should have for its only 
mention of Israel's warriors a taunt. The lovely 
picture of the dove with iridescent wings is as a 
picture perfect. But what does it mean here ? Her- 
der, whom Hupfeld follows, supposes that the whole 
verse is rebuke to recreants, who preferred lying 
stretched at ease among their flocks, and bidding each 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 279 

Other admire the glancing plumage of the doves that 
flitted round them. But this is surely violent, and 
smacks of modern sestheticism. Others suppose that 
the first clause is a summons to be up and pursue the 
flying foe, and the second and third a description of 
the splendour with which the conquerors (or their 
households) should be clothed by the spoil. This 
meaning would require the insertion of some such 
phrase as "ye shall be" before the second clause. 
Delitzsch regards the whole as a connected description 
of the blessings of peace following on victory, and sees 
a reference to Israel as God's dove. " The new condition 
of prosperity is compared with the play of colours of a 
dove basking in the rays of the sun." All these inter- 
pretations assume that Israel is addressed in the first 
clause. But is this assumption warranted ? Is it not 
more natural to refer the "ye" to the "kings" just 
mentioned, especially as the psalmist recurs to them in 
the next verse ? The question will then retain the 
taunting force which it has in Deborah's song, while it 
pictures a very different kind of couching among the 
sheepfolds — namely, the hiding there from pursuit. The 
kings are first seen in full flight. Then the triumphant 
psalmist flings after them the taunt, "Will ye hide 
among the cattle?" If the initial particle retains its 
literal force, the first clause is hypothetical, and the 
suppression of the conclusion speaks more eloquently 

than its expression would have done : " If ye couch " 

The second and third clauses are then parallel with the 
second of ver. 12, and carry on the description of the 
home-keeping matron, " the dove," adorned with rich 
spoils and glorious in her apparel. We thus have a 
complete parallelism between the two verses, which 
both lay side by side the contrasted pictures of the 


defeated kings and the women ; and we further establish 
continuity between the three verses (13-15), in so far 
as the " kings " are dealt with in them all. 

Ver. 14 is even harder than the preceding. What 
does "in it" refer to? Is the second clause metaphor, 
requiring to be eked out with " It is like as when " ? 
If figure, what does it mean ? One is inclined to say 
with Baethgen, at the end of his comment on the words, 
'' After all this, I can only confess that I do not under- 
stand the verse." Salmon was an inconsiderable hill 
in Central Palestine, deriving its name (Shady), as is 
probable, from forests on its sides. Many commentators 
look to that characteristic for explanation of the riddle. 
Snow on the dark hill would show very white. So after 
the defeat the bleached bones of the slain, or, as others, 
their glittering armour, would cover the land. Others 
take the point of comparison to be the change from 
trouble to joy which follows the foe's defeat, and is 
likened to the change of the dark hillside to a gleam- 
ing snow-field. Hupfeld still follows Herder in con- 
necting the verse with the reproach which he finds in 
the former one, and seeing in the words "It snowed on 
Salmon " the ground of the recreants' disinclination to 
leave the sheepfolds — namely, that it was bad weather, 
and that, if snow lay on Salmon in the south, it would 
be worse in the north, where the campaign was going 
on 1 He acknowledges that this explanation requires 
" a good deal of acuteness to discover," and says that 
the only alternative to accepting it, provisionally, at all 
events, is to give up the hope of any solution. Cheyne 
follows Bickell in supposing that part of the text has 
dropped out, and proposes an additional clause at the 
beginning of the verse and an expansion of the last 
clause, arriving at this result : " [For full is our land of 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 281 

spoil], When Shaddai scatters kings therein, [As the 
snow,] when it snows in Salmon." The adoption of 
these additions is not necessary to reach this meaning 
of the whole, which appears the most consonant with 
the preceding verses, as continuing the double reference 
which runs through them — namely, to the fugitive kings 
and the dividers of the spoil. On the one side we see 
the kings driven from their lurking-places among the 
sheepfolds ; on the other, the gleam of rich booty, com- 
pared now to the shining white wrapping the dark hill, 
as formerly to the colours that shimmer on sunlit pinions 
of peaceful doves. If this is not the meaning, we can 
only fall back on the confession already quoted. 

The battle is over, and now the Conqueror enters 
His palace-temple. The third strophe soars with its 
theme, describing His triumphal entry thither and per- 
manent abiding there. The long years between the 
conquest of Canaan and the establishment of the ark 
on Zion dwindle to a span; for God's enthronement 
there was in one view the purpose of the conquest, 
which was incomplete till that was effected. There is no 
need to suppose any reference in the mention of Bashan 
to the victories over Og, its ancient king. The noble 
figure needs no historic allusion to explain it. These 
towering heights beyond Jordan had once in many places 
been seats of idol worship. They are emblems of the 
world's power. No light rests upon them, lofty though 
they are, like that which glorifies the insignificant top 
of Zion. They may well look enviously across the 
Jordan to the hill which God has desired for His abode. 
His triumphal procession is not composed of earthly 
warriors, for none such had appeared in the battle. 
He had conquered, not by employing human hands, 
but by His own "bright-harnessed angels." They now 


surround Him in numbers innumerable, which language 
strains its power in endeavouring to reckon. " Myriads 
doubled, thousands of repetition," says the psalmist 
— indefinite expressions for a countless host. But all 
their wide-flowing ranks are clustered round the 
Conqueror, whose presence makes their multitude an 
unity, even as it gives their immortal frames their life 
and strength, and their faces all their lustrous beauty. 
" God is in the midst of them " ; therefore they conquer 
and exult. "Sinai is in the sanctuary." This bold 
utterance has led to a suggested emendation, which has 
the advantage of bringing out clearly a quotation from 
Deut. xxxiii. 2. It combines the second and third 
clauses of ver. 17, and renders **The Lord hath come 
from Sinai into the sanctuary." But the existing text 
gives a noble thought — that now, by the entrance of 
God thither, Sinai itself is in the sanctuary, and all the 
ancient sanctities and splendours, which flamed round 
its splintered peaks, are housed to shine lambent from 
that humble hill. Sinai was nothing but for God's 
presence. Zion has that presence ; and all that it 
ever meant it means still. The profound sense of the 
permanent nature of past revelation, which speaks all 
through the psalm, reaches its climax here. 

The " height " to which ver. 1 8 triumphantly proclaims 
that God has gone up, can only be Zion. To take it as 
meaning the heavenly sanctuary, as in Psalm vii. 7 it 
unquestionably does, is forbidden by the preceding 
verses. Thither the conquering God has ascended, 
as to His palace, leading a long procession of bound 
captives, and there receiving tribute from the van- 
quished. Assyrian slabs and Egyptian paintings illus- 
trate these representations. The last clause has been 
variously construed and understood. Is **Yea, even 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 283 

the rebellious " to be connected with the preceding, and 
" among " to be supplied, so that those once rebellious 
are conceived of as tributary, or does the phrase begin 
an independent clause ? The latter construction makes 
the remainder of the verse run more intelligibly, and 
obviates the need for supplying a preposition with " the 
rebellious." It still remains a question whether the 
last words of the clause refer to God's dwelling among 
the submissive rebels, or to their dwelling with God. 
If, however, it is kept in view that the context speaks 
of God as dwelling in His sanctuary, the latter is the 
more natural explanation, especially as a forcible con- 
trast is thereby presented to the fate of the "rebel- 
lious " in ver. 6. They dwell in a burnt-up land ; but, 
if they fling away their enmity, may be guests of God 
in His sanctuary. . Thus the first half of the psalm 
closes with grand prophetic hopes that, when God has 
established His abode on Zion, distant nations shall 
bring their tribute, rebels return to allegiance, and men 
be dwellers with God in His house. 

In such anticipations the psalm is Messianic, inas- 
much as these are only fulfilled in the dominion of Jesus. 
Paul's quotation of this verse in Eph. iv. 8 does not 
require us to maintain its directly prophetic character. 
Rather, the apostle, as Calvin says, " deflects " it to 
Christ. That ascent of the ark to Zion was a type 
rather than a prophecy. Conflict, conquest, triumphant 
ascent to a lofty home, tribute, widespread submission, 
and access for rebels to the royal presence — all these, 
which the psalmist saw as facts or hopes in their 
earthly form, are repeated in loftier fashion in Christ, 
or are only attainable through His universal reign. 
The apostle significantly alters " received among " into 
"gave to," sufficiently showing that he is not arguing 


from a verbal prophecy, but from a typical fact, and 
bringing out the two great truths, that, in the highest 
manifestation of the conquering God, the conquered 
receive gifts from the victor, and that the gifts which 
the ascended Christ bestows are really the trophies of 
His battle, in which He bound the strong man and 
spoiled his house. The attempt to make out that the 
Hebrew word has the extraordinary doubled-barrelled 
meaning oi receiving in order to give is futile, and obscures 
the intentional freedom with which the apostle deals 
with the text. The Ascension is, in the fullest sense, 
the enthronement of God ; and its results are the grow- 
ing submission of nations and the happy dwelling of 
even the rebellious in His house. 

The rapturous emphasis with which this psalm 
celebrates God's entrance into His sanctuary is most 
appropriate to Davidic times. 

The psalm reaches its climax in God's enthronement 
on Zion. Its subsequent strophes set forth the results 
thereof The first of these, the fifth of the psalm 
(w. 19-23), suddenly drops from strains of exultation 
to a plaintive note, and then again as suddenly breaks 
out into stern rejoicing over the ruin of the foe. There 
is wonderful depth of insight and tenderness in laying 
side by side the two thoughts of God, that He sits on 
high as conqueror, and that He daily bears our burdens, 
or perhaps bears us as a shepherd might his lambs. 

Truly a Divine use for Divine might ! To such 
lowly offices of continual individualising care will the 
Master of many legions stoop, reaching out from amid 
their innumerable myriads to sustain a poor weak man 
stumbling under a load too great for him. Israel had 
been delivered by a high hand, but still was burdened. 
The psalmist has been recalling the deeds of old, and 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 285 

he finds in them grounds for calm assurance as to the 
present. To-day, he thinks, is as full of God as any 
yesterday, and our *' burdens " as certain to be borne 
by Him, as were those of the generation that saw 
His Sinai tremble at His presence. To us, as to them, 
He is "a God of deliverances," and for us can provide 
ways of escape from death. The words breathe a 
somewhat plaintive sense of need, such as shades our 
brightest moments, if we bethink ourselves ; but they 
do not oblige us to suppose that the psalm is the pro- 
duct of a time of oppression and dejection. That theory 
is contradicted by the bounding gladness of the former 
part, no less than by the confident anticipations of the 
second half. But no song sung by mortal lips is true 
to the singer^s condition, if it lacks the minor key into 
which this hymn of triumph is here modulated for a 

It is but for a moment, and what follows is start- 
lingly different. Israel's escape from death is secured 
by the destruction of the enemy, and in it the psalmist 
has joy. He pictures the hand that sustained him and 
his fellows so tenderly, shattering the heads of the 
rebellious. These are described as long-haired, an 
emblem of strength and insolence which one is almost 
tempted to connect with Absalom ; and the same idea of 
determined and flaunting sin is conveyed by the expres- 
sion "goes on in his guiltinesses." There will be such 
rebels, even though the house of God is open for them 
to dwell in, and there can be but one end for such. If 
they do not submit, they will be crushed. The psalmist 
is as sure of that as of God's gentleness ; and his two 
clauses do state the alternative that every man has to 
face — either to let God bear his burden or to be smitten 
by Him. 


Vv. 22, 23, give a terrible picture of the end of the 
rebels. The psalmist hears the voice of the Lord pro- 
mising to bring some unnamed fugitives from Bashan 
and the depths of the sea in order that they may be 
slain, and that he (or Israel) may bathe his foot in their 
blood, and his dogs may lick it, as they did Ahab's. 
Who are to be brought back ? Some have thought that 
the promise referred to Israel, but it is more natural to 
apply it to the flying foe. There is no reference to 
Bashan either as the kingdom of an ancient enemy 
or as envying Zion (ver. 15). But the high land of 
Bashan in the east and the depths of the sea to the 
west are taken (cj. Amos ix. 1-3) as representing the 
farthest and most inaccessible hiding-places. Wherever 
the enemies lurk, thence they will be dragged and slain. 

The existing text is probably to be amended by the 
change of one letter in the verb, so as to read '* shall 
wash " or bathe, as in Psalm Iviii. 10, and the last 
clause to be read, '* That the tongue of thy dogs may 
have its portion from the enemy." The blood runs 
ankle-deep, and the dogs feast on the carcasses or lick 
it — a dreadful picture of slaughter and fierce triumph. 
It is not to be softened or spiritualised or explained 

There is, no doubt, a legitimate Christian joy in the 
fall of opposition to Christ's kingdom, and the purest 
benevolence has sometimes a right to be glad when 
hoary oppressions are swept away and their victims 
set free ; but such rejoicing is not after the Christian 
law unless it is mingled with pity, of which the psalm 
has no trace. 

The next strophe (w. 24-27) is by some regarded 
as resuming the description of the procession, which 
is supposed to have been interrupted by the preceding 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 287 

strophe. But the joyous march now to be described 
is altogether separate from the majestic progress of the 
conquering King in w. 17, 18. This is the consequence 
of that. God has gone into His sanctuary. His 
people have seen His solemn entrance thither, and 
therefore they now go up to meet Him there with 
song and music. Their festal procession is the second 
result of His enthronement, of which the deliverance 
and triumph described in the preceding strophe were 
the first. The people escaped from death flock to thank 
their Deliverer. Such seems to be the connection of 
the whole, and especially of vv. 24, 25. Instead of 
myriads of angels surrounding the conquering God, 
here are singers and flute-players and damsels beating 
their timbrels, like Miriam and her choir. Their shrill 
call in ver. 26 summons all who *' spring from the 
fountain of Israel " — i.e., from the eponymous patriarch 
— to bless God. After these musicians and singers, the 
psalmist sees tribe after tribe go up to the sanctuary, 
and points to each as it passes. His enumeration is 
not free from difficulties, both in regard to the epithets 
employed and the specification of the tribes. The 
meaning of the word rendered *' ruler " is disputed. 
Its form is peculiar, and the meaning of the verb from 
which it is generally taken to come is rather to subdue 
or tread down than to rule. If the signification of ruler 
is accepted, a question rises as to the sense in which 
Benjamin is so called. Allusion to Saul's belonging 
to that tribe is thought of by some ; but this seems 
improbable, whether the psalm is Davidic or later. 
Others think that the allusion is to the fact that, accord- 
ing to Joshua xviii. 16, the Temple was within Benja- 
mite territory; but that is a far-fetched explanation. 
Others confine the ** rule " to the procession, in which 


Benjamin marches at the head, and so may be called 
its leader; but ruling and leading are not the same. 
Others get a similar result by a very slight textual 
change, reading ** in front " instead of " their ruler." 
Another difficulty is in the word rendered above " their 
shouting multitude," which can only be made to mean 
a company of people by a somewhat violent twist. 
Ilupfeld (with whom Bickell and Cheyne agree) pro- 
poses an alteration which yields the former sense and 
is easy. It may be tentatively adopted. 

A more important question is the reason for the 
selection of the four tribes named. The mention of 
Benjamin and Judah is natural ; but why are Zebulun 
and Naphtali the only representatives of the other 
tribes ? The defenders of a late date answer, as has 
been already noticed, Because in the late period when 
the psalm was written, Galilee and Judaea " formed the 
two orthodox provinces." The objection to this is that 
in the post-exihc period there were no distinct tribes 
of Zebulun and Naphtali, and no princes to rule. 

The mention of these tribes as sharing in the pro- 
cession to the sanctuary on Zion would have been 
impossible during the period of the northern kingdom. 
If, then, these two periods are excluded, what is left 
but the Davidic ? The fact seems to be that we have 
here another glance at Deborah's song, in which the 
daring valour of these two tribes is set in contrast 
with the sluggish cowardice of Reuben and the other 
northern ones. Those who had done their part in the 
wars of the Lord now go up in triumph to His house. 
That is the reward of God's faithful soldiers. 

The next strophe (vv. 28-31) is the prayer of the 
procession. It falls into two parts of two verses each, 
of which the former verse is petition, and the latter 

Ixviii.] THE PSALMS 289 

confident anticipation of the results of answered prayer 
The symmetry of the whole requires the substitution 
in ver. 28 of " command " for " hath commanded." 
God*s strength is poetically regarded as distinct from 
Himself and almost personified, as " loving-kindness " 
is in Psalm xlii. 8. The prayer is substantially 
equivalent to the following petition in ver. 28 ^. Note 
how *' strength " occurs four times in vv. 33-35. The 
prayer for its present manifestation is, in accordance 
with the historical retrospect of the first part, based 
upon God's past acts. It has been proposed to detach 
" From Thy Temple " from ver. 29, and to attach it 
to ver. 28. This gets over a difficulty, but unduly 
abbreviates ver. 29, and is not in harmony with the 
representation in the former part, which magnifies 
what God has wrought, not "from the Temple," but 
in His progress thither. No doubt the retention of 
the words in ver. 29 introduces a singular expression 
there. How can presents be brought to God " from 
Thy Temple " ? The only explanation is that ** Temple " 
is used in a restricted sense for the " holy place," as 
distinguished from the " holy of holies," in which the 
ark was contained. The tribute-bearers stand in that 
outer sanctuary, and thence present their tokens of 
fealty. The city is clustered round the Temple mount, 
and therefore the psaim says, "Thy Temple above 
Jerusalem." One is tempted to read " unto " instead 
of " from " ; for this explanation can scarcely be called 
quite satisfactory. But it seems the best that has 
been suggested. The submission of kings of unnamed 
lands is contemplated as the result of God's manifesta- 
tion of strength for Israel. Ver. 30 resumes the tone 
of petition, and maintains it throughout. "The beast 
of the reeds," probably the crocodile, is a poetic 

VOL. IL 19 


designation for Egypt, the reference to which is 
claimed by both the defenders of the Davidic and of the 
post-exihc date as in their favour. The former say 
that, in David's day, Egypt was the greatest world- 
power known to the Hebrews ; and the latter, that the 
mention of it points to the time when Israel lay 
exposed to the attacks of Seleucidae on the one hand 
and of Ptolemies on the other. Why, then, should 
only one of the two hostile neighbours be mentioned 
here ? " Bulls " are a standing emblem of leaders of 
nations, and " calves " are accordingly their subjects. 
The two metaphors are naturally connected, and the 
correction "leaders of the peoples" is unnecessary, 
and a prosaic intermingling of figure and fact. 

Ver. 30 c is extremely obscure. Baethgen roundly 
says, " The meaning of the words can no longer be 
ascertained, and in all probability they are corrupt." 
The first word is a participle, which is variously taken 
as meaning " casting oneself to the ground " (/>., in 
submission), and " trampling to the ground." It is 
also variously referred to the nations and their leaders 
spoken of in the previous verse, and to God. In the 
former case it would describe their attitude of submis- 
sion in consequence of " rebuke " ; in the latter, God's 
subjugation of them. The slightest change would 
make the word an imperative, thus bringing it into 
line with " rebuke " ; but, even without this, the refer- 
ence to God is apparently to be preferred. The 
structure of the strophe which, in the first verse of 
each pair, seems to put petitions and to confine its 
descriptions of the resulting subjugation of the enemy 
to the second verse in each case, favours the latter 
interpretation. The next words are also disputed. 
One rendering is, " with bars of silver " ; another, 

Ixvin.] THE PSALMS 991 

** those that delight in silver." The former presupposes 
a very unusual word for "bars." It is necessarily 
adopted by those who refer the first word to the sub- 
mission of the " herd of bulls." The enemies come 
with tribute of silver. The other rendering, which 
avoids the necessity of bringing in an otherwise un- 
known word, is necessarily preferred by the supporters 
of the second explanation of the preceding word. God 
is implored to crush " those who delight in silver," 
which may stand for a description of men of this world, 
but must be acknowledged to be rather a singular 
way of designating active enemies of God and Israel. 
Cheyne's rendering, " That rolls itself in mire for gain 
of money," brings in the mercenaries of the Seleucidse. 
But ** rolling oneself in mire " is a strange way of saying 
"hiring oneself out to fight." Certainty seems un- 
attainable, and we must be content with the general 
trend of the verse as supplication for an exhibition 
of God's strength against proud opponents. The last 
clause sums up the whole in the petition, " Scatter the 
peoples that delight in wars." 

One verse then tells what the result of that will be. 
" Great ones " shall come from the land of the beast of 
the reeds, and Ethiopia shall make haste to stretch out 
tribute-bearing hands to God. The vision of a world 
subjugated and loving its subjugation is rising before 
the poet. That is the end of the ways of God with 
Israel. So deeply had this psalmist been led into 
comprehension of the Divine purpose ; so clearly was 
he given to see the future, " and all the wonder that 
should be." 

Therefore he breaks forth, in the last strophe, into 
invocation to all the kingdoms of the earth to sing to 
God. He had sung of His majesty as of old Jehovah 


** rode through the deserts *^ ; and that phrase described 
His intervention in the field of history on behalf of 
Israel. Now the singer calls for praise from all the earth 
to Him who rides in the *' most ancient heavens " ; and 
that expression sets forth His transcendent majesty and 
eternal, universal sway. The psalmist had hymned the 
victory won when " God gave the word." Now he bids 
earth listen as " He gives His voice, a voice of strength," 
which moves and controls all creatures and events. 
Therefore all nations are summoned to give strength 
to God, who gives all fulnesses of strength to His 
people. The psalm closes with the utterance of the 
thought which has animated it throughout — that God's 
deeds for and in Israel are the manifestation for the 
world of His power, and that these will one day lead 
all men to bless the God of Israel, who shines out in 
dread majesty from the sanctuary, which is henceforth 
His abode for evermore. 


II Save me, O God ; 

For the waters have come in even to [my] soul. 

2 I am sunk in the mud of an abyss, without standing-ground 

I am come into depths of waters, and a flood has overwhelmed me, 

3 I am weary with my crying ; my throat is parched, 
My eyes fail whilst I wait for my God. 

4 More than the hairs of my head are they who hate me without 

Strong are my destroyers, my enemies wrongfully. 
What I did not rob, then I must restore,! 

5 O God, Thou, Thou knowest my folly. 

And my guiltinesses are not hidden from Thee. 

6 Let not those who wait for Thee be put to shame through me, 

Lord, Jehovah of hosts : 
Let not those be confounded through me who seek Thee, O God 
of Israel. 

7 For Thy sake have I borne reproach ; 
Confusion has covered my face. 

8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, 
And an alien to my mother's sons. 

9 For zeal for Thine house has consumed me, 

And the reproaches of those that reproach Thee have fallen 
upon me. 

10 And I wept, in fasting my soul [wept] ; 

And that became [matter of] reproaches to me, 

1 1 Also I made sackcloth my clothing ; 
And I became to them a proverb. 

12 They who sit at the gate talk of me, 

And the songs of the quaffers of strong drink [are about me]. 

13 But as for me, my prayer is unto Thee, Jehovah, in a time ol 

O God, in the greatness of Thy loving-kindness. 
Answer me in the troth of Thy salvation, 



14 Deliver me from [the] mire, that I sink not, 

Rescue me from those who hate me, and from depths of waters. 

15 Let not the flood of waters overwhelm me, 
And let not the abyss swallow me. 

And let not [the] pit close her mouth over me. 

16 Answer me, Jehovah ; for Thy loving-kindness is good : 
In the multitude of Thy compassions turn toward me. 

17 And hide not Thy face from Thy servant, 
For I am in straits ; answer me speedily. 

18 Draw near to my soul, redeem it, 
Because of my enemies set me free. 

19 Thou, Thou knowest my reproach, and my shame, and mj 

Before Thee are all my adversaries. 

20 Reproach has broken my heart ; and I am sick unto death. 
And I looked for pitying, and there was none, 

And for comforters, and found none. 

21 But they gave me gall for my food, 

And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. 

22 Let their table become before them a snare, 

And to them in their peacefulness, [let it become] a trap. 

23 Darkened be their eyes, that they see not, 
And make their loins continually to quake. 

24 Pour out upon them Thine indignation. 

And let the glow of Thy wrath overtake them. 

25 May their encampment be desolate ! 

In their tents may there be no dweller ! 

26 For him whom Thou, Thou hast smitten, they pers(;cute, 
And they tell of the pain of Thy wounded ones. 

27 Add iniquity to their iniquity. 

And let them not come into Thy righteousness. 

28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, 
And let them not be inscribed with the righteoua, 

29 But as for me, I am afflicted and pained, 
Let Thy salvation, O God, set me on high. 

30 1 will praise the name of God in a song. 
And I will magnify it with thanksgiving. 

31 And it shall please Jehovah more than an ox, 
A bullock horned and hoofed. 

32 The afflicted see it ; they shall rejoice, 

Ye who seek God, [behold,] and let your heart live. 

Ixix.) THE PSALMS 295 

33 For Jehovah listens to the needy, 
And His captives He does not despise, 

34 Let heaven and earth praise Him, 
The seas, and all that moves in them. 

35 For God will save Zion, and build the cities of Judah, 
And they shall dwell there, and possess it. 

36 And the seed of His servants shall inherit it, 
And those who love His name shall abide therein. 

THE Davidic authorship of this psalm is evidently 
untenable, if for no other reason, yet because of 
the state of things presupposed in ver. 35. The sup- 
position that Jeremiah was the author has more in its 
favour than in the case of many of the modern attri- 
butions of psalms to him, even if, as seems most 
probable, the references to sinking in deep mire and the 
like are metaphorical. Cheyne fixes on the period pre- 
ceding Nehemiah's first journey to Jerusalem as the 
earliest possible date for this psalm and its kindred 
ones (xxii., xxxv., and xl. 13-18). Baethgen follows 
Olshausen in assigning the psalm to the Maccabean 
period. The one point which seems absolutely certain 
is that David was not its author. 

It falls into two equal parts (vv. 1-18 and 19-36). 
In the former part three turns of thought or feeling 
may be traced : vv. 1-6 being mainly a cry for Divine 
help, with plaintive spreading out of the psalmist's 
extremity of need; vv. 7-12 basing the prayer on 
the fact that his sufferings flow from his religion ; 
and vv. 13-18 being a stream of petitions for deliver- 
ance, with continuous allusion to the description of 
his trials in w. 1-6. The second part (w. 19-36) 
begins with renewed description of the psalmist's 
affliction (vv. 19-21), and thence passes to invocation 
of God's justice on his foes (vv. 22-28), which takes 
the place of the direct petitions for deliverance in the 


first part. The whole closes with trustful anticipation 
of answers to prayer, which will call forth praise from 
ever- widening circles, — first from the psalmist himself; 
then from the oppressed righteous; and, finally, from 
heaven, earth, and sea. 

The numerous citations of this psalm in the New 
Testament have led many commentators to maintain 
its directly Messianic character. But its confessions of 
sin and imprecations of vengeance are equally incom- 
patible with that view. It is Messianic as typical 
rather than as prophetic, exhibiting a history, whether 
of king, prophet, righteous man, or personified nation, 
in which the same principles are at work as are mani- 
fest in their supreme energy and highest form in the 
Prince of righteous sufferers. But the correspondence 
of such a detail as giving gall and vinegar, with the 
history of Jesus, carries us beyond the region of types, 
and is a witness that God's Spirit shaped the utterances 
of the psalmist for a purpose unknown to himself, and 
worked in like manner on the rude soldiers, whose 
clumsy mockery and clumsy kindness fulfilled ancient 
words. There is surely something more here than 
coincidence or similarity between the experience of 
one righteous sufferer and another. If Jesus cried 
" I thirst " in order to bring about the " fulfilment " of 
one verse of our psalm. His doing so is of a piece with 
some other acts of His which were distinct claims to 
be the Messiah of prophecy ; but His wish could not 
influence the soldiers to fulfil the psalm. 

rt'he first note is petition and spreading out of the 
piteous story of the psalmist's need. The burdened 
heart finds some ease in describing how heavy its 
burden is, and the devout heart receives some foretaste 
of longed-for help in the act of telling God how sorely 

Ixix.] THE PSALMS 297 

His help is needed. He who knows all our trouble is 
glad to have us tell it to Him, since it is thereby 
lightened, and our faith in Him is thereby increased. 
Sins confessed are wholly cancelled, and troubles 
spoken to God are more than half calmedj The 
psalmist begins with metaphors in vv. I, 2, and trans- 
lates these into grim prose in vv. 3, 4, and then, 
with acknowledgment of sinfulness, cries for God's 
intervention in vv. 5, 6. It is flat and prosaic to take 
the expressions in vv. I, 2, literally, as if they de- 
scribed an experience like Jeremiah's in the miry pit. 
Nor can the literal application be carried through ; for 
the image of " waters coming in unto the soul " brings 
up an entirely different set of circumstances from that 
of sinking in mud in a pit. The one describes trouble 
as rushing in upon a man, like a deluge which has burst 
its banks and overwhelms him ; the other paints it as 
yielding and tenacious, affording no firm spot to stand 
on, but sucking him up in its filthy, stifling slime. No 
water was in Jeremiah's pit. The two figures are 
incompatible in reality, and can only be blended in 
imagination. What they mean is put without metaphor 
in vv. 3, 4. The psalmist is " weary with calling " on 
God ; his throat is dry with much prayer ; his eyes ache 
and are dim with upward gazing for help which lingers. 
Yet he does not cease to call, and still prays with his 
parched throat, and keeps the weary eyes steadfastly 
fixed, as the psalm shows. It is no small triumph of 
patient faith to wait for tarrying help. Ver. 4 tells why 
he thus cries. He is compassed by a crowd of enemies. 
Two things especially characterise these — their numbers, 
and their gratuitous hatred. As to the former, they are 
described as more numerous than the hairs of the 
psalmist's head. The parallelism of clauses recommends 


the textual alteration which substitutes for the unneces- 
sary word *' my destroyers " the appropriate expression 
"more than my bones," which is found in some old 
versions. Causeless hatred is the portion of the 
righteous in all ages ; and our Lord points to Himself 
as experiencing it in utmost measure (John xv. 25), in- 
asmuch as He, the perfectly righteous One, must take 
into His own history all the bitterness which is infused 
into the cup of those who fear God and love the right, 
by a generation who are out of sympathy with them. 

The -same experience, in forms varying according to 
the spirit of the times, is realised still in all who have 
the mind of Christ in them. As long as the world is 
a world, it will have some contempt mingling with its 
constrained respect for goodness, some hostility, now 
expressed by light shafts of mockery and ridicule, now 
by heavier and more hurtful missiles, for Christ's true 
servants. The ancient '* Woe " for those of whom " all 
men speak well " is in force to-day. The " hatred " is 
"without a cause," in so far as its cherishers have 
received no hurt, and its objects desire only their 
enemies' good ; but its cause lies deep in the irrecon- 
cilable antagonism of life-principles and aims between 
those who follow Christ and those who do not. 

The psalmist had to bear unjust charges, and to make 
restitution of what he had never taken. Causeless 
hatred justified itself by false accusations, and innocence 
had but to bear silently and to save life at the expense 
of being robbed in the name of justice. 

He turns from enemies to God. But his profession 
of innocence assumes a touching and unusual form. 
He does not, as might be expected, say, " Thou knowest 
my guiltlessness," but, " Thou knowest my foolishness." 
A true heart, while conscious of innocence in regard 

Ixix.] THE PSALMS 299 

to men, and of having done nothing to evoke their 
enmity, is, even in the act of searching itself, arrested 
by the consciousness of its many sins in God's sight, 
and will confess these the more penitently, because it 
stands upright before men, and asserts its freedom from 
all crime against them. In so far as men's hatred is 
God's instrument, it inflicts merited chastisement. That 
does not excuse men ; but it needs to be acknowledged 
by the sufferer, if things are to be right between him 
and God. Then, after such confession, he can pray, as 
this psalmist does, that God's mercy may deliver him, 
so that others who, like him, wait on God may not be 
disheartened or swept from their confidence, by the 
spectacle of his vain hopes and unanswered cries. The 
psalmist has a strong consciousness of his represen- 
tative character, and, as in so many other psalms, thinks 
that his experience is of wide significance as a witness 
for God. This consciousness points to something 
special in his position, whether we find the speciality 
in his office, or in the supposed personification of the 
nation, or in poetic consciousness heightened by the 
sense of being an organ of God's Spirit. In a much 
inferior degree, the lowliest devout man may feel the 
same ; for there are none whose experiences of God as , 
answering prayer may not be a light of hope to some 
souls sitting in the dark. 

In vv. 7-12 the prayer for deliverance is urged on 
the ground that the singer's sufferings are the result 
of his devotion. Psalm xliv. 13-22 may be compared, 
and Jer. xv. 15 is an even closer parallel. Fasting 
and sackcloth are mentioned again together in Psalm 
XXXV. 13; and Lam. iii. 14 and Job xxx. 9 resemble 
ver. 12 b. Surrounded by a godless generation, the 
psalmist's earnestness of faith and concern for God's 


honour made him an object of dislike, a target for 
drunken ridicule. These broke the strong ties of 
kindred, and acted as separating forces more strongly 
than brotherhood did, as a uniting one. " Zeal for God's 
house " presupposes the existence of the Temple, and 
also either its neglect or its desecration. That sunken 
condition of the sanctuary distressed the psalmist more 
than personal calamity, and it was the departure of Israel 
from God that made him clothe himself in sackcloth 
and fast and weep. But so far had deterioration gone 
that his mourning and its cause supplied materials for 
tipsy mirth, and his name became a by- word and a 
butt for malicious gossip. The whole picture is that 
of the standing experience of the godly among the 
godless. The Perfect Example of devotion and com- 
munion had to pass through these waters where they 
ran deepest and chilliest, but all who have His Spirit 
have their share of the same fate. 

The last division of this first part (w. 13-18) begins 
by setting in strong contrast the psalmist's prayer and 
the drunkard's song. He is sure that his cry will 
be heard, and so he calls the present time '* a time of 
favour," and appeals, as often in the Psalter, to the 
multitude of God's loving-kindnesses and the faithful- 
ness of His promise of salvation. Such a pleading 
with God on the ground of His manifested character 
is heard in vv. 13, 16, thus inclosing, as it were, 
the prayer for deliverance in a wrapping of reminders 
to God of His own name. The petitions here echo 
the description of peril in the former part — mire and 
watery depths — and add another kindred image in that 
of the *^ pit shutting her mouth" over the suppliant. 
He is plunged in a deep dungeon, well-shaped; and 
if a stone is rolled on to its opening, his last gleam 

Ixix.] THE PSALMS 301 

of daylight will be gone, and he will be buried alive. 
Beautifully do the pleas from God's character and those 
from the petitioner's sore need alternate, the latter 
predominating in vv. 17, 18. His thoughts pass from 
his own desperate condition to God's mercy, and from 
God's mercy to his own condition, and he has the 
reward of faith, in that he finds in his straits reasons 
for his assurance that this is a time of favour, as well 
as pleas to urge with God. They make the black 
backing which turns his soul into a mirror, reflecting 
God's promises in its trust. 

The second part of the psalm (ver. 19 to end) has, like 
the former, three main divisions. The first of these, 
like vv. 1-6, is mainly a renewed spreading before God 
of the psalmist's trouble (vv. 19-21). Rooted sorrows 
are not plucked up by one effort. This recrudescence 
of fear breaking in upon the newly won serenity of 
faith is true to nature. On some parts of our coasts, 
where a narrow outlet hinders the free run of the tide, 
a second high water follows the first after an hour or 
so ; and often a similar bar to the flowing away of fears 
brings them back in full rush after they had begun to 
sink. The psalmist had appealed to God's knowledge 
of His ** foolishness " as indorsing his protestations of 
innocence towards men. He now (ver. 19) appeals 
to His knowledge of his distresses, as indorsing his 
pitiful plaints. His soul is too deeply moved now to 
use metaphors. He speaks no more of mire and flood, 
but we hear the moan of a broken heart, and that wail 
which sounds sad across the centuries and wakes echoes 
in many solitary hearts. The psalmist's eyes had failed, 
while he looked upwards for a God whose coming 
seemed slow ; but they had looked yet more wearily 
%nd vainly for human pity and comforters, and found 


none. Instead of pity He had received only aggrava- 
tion of misery. Such seems to be the force of giving 
gall for food, and vinegar to His thirst. The precise 
meaning of the word rendered *'gall" is uncertain, but 
the general idea of something bitter is sufficient. That 
was al] that His foes would give Him when hungry ; 
and vinegar, which would make Him more thirsty still, 
was all that they proffered for His thirst. Such was 
their sympathy and comforting. According to Matthew, 
the potion of " wine (or vinegar) mingled with gall " 
was offered to and rejected by Jesus, before being 
fastened to the cross. He does not expressly quote 
the psalm, but probably refers to it. John, on the other 
hand, does tell us that Jesus, ** that the scripture might 
be accomplished, said, I thirst," and sees its fulfilment 
in the kindly act of moistening the parched lips. The 
evangelist's expression does not necessarily imply that 
a desire to fulfil the scripture was our Lord's motive. 
Crucifixion was accompanied with torturing thirst, 
which wrung that last complaint from Jesus. But the 
evangelist discerns a Divine purpose behind the utter- 
ance of Jesus' human weakness ; and it is surely less 
difficult, for any one who believes in supernatural 
revelation at all, to believe that the words of the 
psalmist were shaped by a higher power, and the 
hands of the Roman soldiers moved by another impulse 
than their own, than to believe that this minute corre- 
spondence of psalm and gospel is merely accidental. 

But the immediately succeeding section warns us 
against pushing the Messianic character of the psalm 
too far, for these fearful imprecations cannot have any 
analogies in Christ's words (vv. 22-28). The form of the 
wish in " Let their table become a snare " is explained 
by remembering that the Eastern table was often a 

Ixix.] THE PSALMS 303 

leather flap laid on the ground, which the psalmist 
desires may start up as a snare, and close upon the 
feasters as they sit round it secure. Disease, continual 
terror, dimmed eyes, paralysed or quaking loins, ruin 
falling on their homes, and desolation round their 
encampment, so that they have no descendants, are the 
least of the evils invoked. The psalmist's desires go 
further than all this corporeal and material disaster. 
He prays that iniquity may be added to their iniquity — 
/>., that they may be held guilty of sin after sin ; and 
that they may have no portion in God's righteousness — 
i.e.^ in the gifts which flow from His adherence to His 

The climax of all these maledictions is that awful wish 
that the persecutors may be blotted out of the book of 
life or of the living. True, the high New Testament 
conception of that book, according to which it is the 
burgess-roll of the citizens of the New Jerusalem, the 
possessors of eternal life, does not plainly belong to it 
in Old Testament usage, in which it means apparently 
the register of those living on earth. But to blot names 
therefrom is not only to kill, but to exclude from the 
national community, and so from all the privileges of 
the people of God. The psalmist desires for his foes 
the accumulation of all the ills that flesh is heir to, the 
extirpation of their families, and their absolute exclusion 
from the company of the living and the righteous. It is 
impossible to bring such utterances into harmony with 
the teachings of Jesus, and the attempt to vindicate 
them ignores plain facts and does violence to plain 
words. Better far to let them stand as a monument of 
the earlier stage of God's progressive revelation, and 
discern clearly the advance which Christian ethics has 
made on them. 


The psalm ends with glad anticipations of deliver- 
ance and vows of thanksgiving. The psalmist is 
sure that God's salvation will lift him high above his 
enemies, and as sure that then he will be as grateful as 
he is now earnest in prayer, and surest of all that his 
thankful voice will sound sweeter in God's ear than 
any sacrifice would smell in His nostrils. There is 
no contempt of sacrifices expressed in " horned and 
hoofed," but simply the idea of maturity which fits the 
animal to be offered. 

The single voice of praise will be caught up, the 
singer thinks, by a great chorus of those who would 
have been struck dumb with confusion if his prayer 
had not been answered (ver. 6), and who, in like 
manner, are gladdened by seeing his deliverance. The 
grace bestowed on one brings thanksgivings from 
many, which redound to the glory of God. The 
sudden transition in ver. 32 3 to direct address to the 
seekers after God, as if they stood beside the solitary 
singer, gives vividness to the anticipation. The inser- 
tion of " behold " is warranted, and tells what revives 
the beholders' hearts. The seekers after God feel 
the pulse of a quicker life throbbing, when they see 
the wonders wrought through prayer. The singer's 
thoughts go beyond his own deliverance to that of 
Israel. " His captives " is most naturally understood 
as referring to the exiled fiation. And this wider mani- 
festation of God's restoring power will evoke praise 
from a wider circle, even from heaven, earth, and sea. 
The circumstances contemplated in w. 33-36 are 
evidently those of a captivity. God's people are in 
bondage, the cities of Judah are in ruins, the inhabit- 
ants scattered far from their homes. The only reason 
for taking the closing verses as being a liturgical 

Ixix.] THE PSALMS 305 

addition is unwillingness to admit exilic or post-exilic 
psalms. But these verses cannot be fairly interpreted 
without recognising that they presuppose that Israel 
is in bondage, or at least on the verge of it. The 
circumstances of Jeremiah's life and times coincide 
closely with those of the psalmist 

VOL. a 20 


1 O God, [be pleased] to deliver me, 
Jehovah, hasten to my help. 

2 Shamed and put to the blush be the seekers after my, soul! 
Turned back and dishonoured be they who delight in my 

calamity ! 
(3 Let them turn back by reason of their shame who say, Oho 1 Oho |) 
4 Joyful and glad in Thee be all who seek Thee ! 

And ^^ God be magnified" may they ever say who love Thy 
salvation ! 
^ 5 But ^s for me, I am afflicted and needy ; 
O God, hasten to me : 
My help and my deliverer art Thou; 
Jehovahf delay not. ^ 

THIS psalm is all but identical with the last verses 
of Psalm xl. 13-17. Some unimportant altera- 
tions have been made, principally in the Divine names ; 
but the principle on which they have been made is not 
obvious. It is scarcely correct to sa^, with Delitzsch, 
that the psalm "has been transformed, so as to become 
Elohistic " ; for though it twice replaces the name of 
Jehovah with that of God (vv. i, 4), it makes the con- 
verse change in ver. 5, last clause, by reading Jehovah 
instead of *^ God," as in Psalm xl. 

{Other changes are of little moment. The principal 
are in vv. 3 and 5. In the former the vehement wish 
that the psalmist's mockers ma}^ be paralysed with shame 

* Italics show variations from Psalm xl. 

Ux.] THE PSALMS 307 

is softened down into a desire that they may be turned 
hack. The two verbs are similar in sound, and the 
substitution may have been accidental, a slip of memory 
or a defect in hearing, or it may have been an artistic 
variation of the original.') In ver. 5 a prayer that God 
will hasten to the psalmist's help takes the place of 
an expression of confidence that ''Jehovah purposes 
[good] " to him, and again there is similarity of sound 
in the two words. This change is like the subtle 
alteration which a painter might make on his picture by 
taking out one spot of high light. The gleam of con- 
fidence is changed to a call of need, and the tone of 
the whole psalm is thereby made more plaintive^ 

Hupfeld holds that this psalm is the original, and 
Psalm xl. a composite ; but most commentators agree in 
regarding this as a fragment of that psalm. The cut 
has not been very cleanly made ; for the necessary verb 
" be pleased " has been left behind, and the symmetry 
of ver. I is destroyed for want of it. The awkward 
incompleteness of this beginning witnesses that the 
psalm is a fragment. 


1 In Thee, Jehovah, do I take refuge. 
Let me not be put to shame for ever. 

2 In Thy righteousness deliver me and rescue me^ 
Bend Thine ear and save me. 

3 Be to me for a rock of habitation to go to continually t 
Thou hast commanded to save me, 

For my rock and my fortress art Thou. 

4 My God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked, 
From the fist of the evil-doer and the violent man. 

5 For Thou [art] my hope, 

O Lord Jehovah, [Thou art] my trust from my youth. / 

6 On Thee have I been stayed from the womb, 

From my mother's bowels Thou hast been my protectors 
Of Thee is my praise continually. 

7 As a wonder am I become to many, 
But Thou art my refuge — a strong one. 

8 My mouth is filled with Thy praise, 
All the day with Thine honour. 

* 9 Cast me not away in the time of old age^ 
When my strength fails, forsake me not, 

10 For mine enemies speak concerning me, 

And the watchers of my soul consult together, 

11 Saying, God has left him. 

Chase and seize him ; for there is no deliverer. 

12 O God, be not far from me. 
My God, haste to my help. « 

13 Ashamed, confounded, be the adversaries of my soul, 

Covered with reproach and confusion be those who seek my hurt 

14 But as for me, continually will I hope, 
And add to all Thy praise. 

15 My mouth shall recount Thy righteousness, 
All the day Thy salvation, 

For I know not the numbers [thereof]. 


Ixxi.] THE PSALMS 309 

16 I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord Jehovah, 
I will celebrate Thy righteousness, [even] Thine only, 

17 O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth, 
And up till now I declare Thy wonders. 

18 And even to old age and grey hairs, 
O God, forsake me not, 

Till I declare Thine arm to [the next] generation, 
To all who shall come Thy power. 

19 And Thy righteousness, O God, [reaches] to the height^ 

Thou who hast done great things. 
Who is like Thee ? 

20 Thou who hast made us see straits many and sore. 
Thou wilt revive us again. 

And from the abysses of the earth will bring us up again. 

21 Thou wilt increase my greatness. 
And wilt turn to comfort me. 

22 Also I will thank Thee with the lyre, [even] Thy troth, my God, 

1 will harp unto Thee with the harp, Thou Holy One of Israel. 

23 My lips shall sing aloud when I harp unto Thee, 
And my soul, which Thou hast redeemed. 

24 Also my tongue shall all the day muse on Thy righteousness, 
For shamed, for put to the blush, are they that seek my hurt. 

ECHOES of former psalms make the staple of this 
one, and even those parts of it which are not 
quotations have little individuality. The themes are 
famiHar, and the expression of them is scarcely less 
so. There is no well-defined strophical structure, and 
little continuity of thought or feeling. Vv. 13 and 24 b 
serve as a kind of partial refrain, and may be taken 
as dividing the psalm into two parts, but there is little 
difference between the contents of the two. Delitzsch 
gives in his adhesion to the hypothesis that Jeremiah 
was the author; and there is considerable weight in 
the reasons assigned for that ascription of authorship. 
The pensive, plaintive tone ; the abundant quotations, 
with slight alterations of the passages cited ; the auto- 
biographical hints which fit in with Jeremiah's history, 



are the chief of these. But they can scarcely be called 
conclusive. There is more to be said for the supposi- 
tion that the singer is the personified nation in this 
case than in many others. The sudden transition to 
** us " in ver. 20, which the Massoretic marginal correc- 
tion corrects into " me," favours, though it does not 
absolutely require, that view, which is also supported 
by the frequent allusion to " youth '* and " old age." 
These, however, are capable of a worthy meaning, if 
referring to an individual. Vv. 1—3 are slightly varied 
from Psalm xxxi. 1-3. The character of the changes 
will be best appreciated by setting the two passages 
side by side. 

Psalm xxxi. 

1 In Thee, Jehovah, do I take 
refuge ; let me not be ashamed 
for ever : 

In Thy righteousness rescue 

2 a Bend Thine ear to me; de- 
liver me speedily. 

Psalm lxxi. 

1 In Thee, Jehovah, do I take 
refuge : 

Let me not be put to shame 
for ever. 

2 In Thy righteousness deliver 
me and rescue me : 

Bend Thine ear and save me. 

The two verbs, which in the former psalm are in 
separate clauses ('* deliver " and " rescue "), are here 
brought together. " Speedily " is omitted, and " save " is 
substituted for " deliver," which has been drawn into 
the preceding clause. Obviously no difference of 
meaning is intended to be conveyed, and the changes 
look very like the inaccuracies of memoriter quotations. 
The next variation is as follows : — 

Psalm xxxi. 

2 b Be to me for a strong rock, 
for a house of defence to save me. 

3 For my rock and my fortress 
art Thou. 

Psalm lxxi. 

3 Be to me for a rock of habi- 
tation to go to continually: 

Thou hast commanded to save 

For my rock and my fortress 
art Thou. 

Ixxi.] THE PSALMS 3" 

The difference between " a strong rock " and " rock 
of habitation " is but one letter. That between " for 
a house of defence " and " to go to continually : Thou 
hast commanded " is extremely slight, as Baethgen has 
well sLown. Possibly both of these variations are due 
to textual corruption, but more probably this psalmist; 
intentionally altered the words of an older psalm. 
Most of the old versions have the existing text, but 
the LXX. seems to have read the Hebrew here as in 
Psalm xxxi. The changes are not important, but they 
are significant. That thought of God as a habitation 
to which the soul may continually find access goes 
very deep into the secrets of the devout life. The 
variation in ver. 3 is recommended by observing the 
frequent recurrence of *' continually " in this psalm, of 
which that word may almost be said to be the motto. 
Nor is the thought of God's command given to His 
multitude of unnamed servants, to save this poor man, 
one which we can afford tp lose. 

Vv. 5, 6, are a similar variation of Psalm xxii. 9, 10. 
" On Thee have I been stayed from the womb," says 
this psalmist; "On Thee was I cast from the womb," 
says the original passage. The variation beautifully 
brings out, not only reliance on God, but the Divine 
response to that reliance by life-long upholding. That 
strong arm answers leaning weakness with firm sup- 
port, and whosoever relies on it is upheld by it. 
The word rendered above " protector " is doubtful. It 
is substituted for that in Psalm xxii. 9 which means 
" One that takes out," and some commentators would 
attach the same meaning to the word used here, referring 
it to God's goodness before and at birth. But it is better 
taken as equivalent to benefactor, provider, or some such 
designation, and as referring to God's Ufelong care. 


The psalmist has been " a wonder " to many specta- 
tors, either in the sense that they have gazed astonished 
at God's goodness, or, as accords better with the ad- 
versative character of the next clause (" But Thou art 
my refuge "), that his sufferings have been unexampled. 
Both ideas may well be combined, for the life of every 
man, if rightly studied, is full of miracles both of mercy 
and judgment. If the psalm is the voice of an individual, 
the natural conclusion from such words is that his life 
was conspicuous ; but it is obvious that the national 
reference is appropriate here. 

On this thankful retrospect of life-long help and life- 
long trust the psalm builds a prayer for future protec- 
tion from eager enemies, who think that the charmed 
life is vulnerable at last. 

/ Vv. 9-13 rise to a height of emotion above the 
level of the rest of the psalm. On one hypothesis, 
we have in them the cry of an old man, whose 
strength diminishes as his dangers increase. Some- 
thing undisclosed in his circumstances gave colour to 
the greedy hopes of his enemies. Often prosperous 
careers are overclouded at the end, and the piteous 
spectacle is seen of age overtaken by tempests which 
its feebleness cannot resist, and which are all the 
worse to face because of the calms preceding them. 
On the national hypothesis, the psalm is the prayer of 
Israel at a late stage of its history, from which it looks 
back to the miracles of old, and then to the ring of 
enemies rejoicing over its apparent weakness, and then 
upwards to the Eternal Helper. / 

Vv. 12, 13, are woven outol other psalms. 12 a, *' Be 
not far from me," is found in xxii. 11, 19; xxxv. 22; 
xxxviii. 21, etc. ''Haste to my help" is found in 
xxxviii. 22; xl. 13 (Ixx. i). For ver. 13 compare 

Ixxi.] THE PSALMS 313 

XXXV. 4, 26 ; xl. 14 (Ixx. 2). With this, as a sort 
of refrain, the first part of the psalm ends. 

The second part goes over substantially the same 
ground, but with lighter heart. The confidence of 
deliverance is more vivid, and it, as well as the vow 
of praise following thereon, bulk larger. The singer 
has thinned away his anxieties by speaking them to 
God, and has by the same process solidified his faith. 
Aged eyes should see God, the helper, more clearly 
when earth begins to look grey and dim. The forward 
look of such finds little to stay it on this side of heaven. 
As there seems less and less to hope for here, there 
should be more and more there. Youth is the time 
for buoyant anticipation, according to the world's 
notions, but age may have far brighter lights ahead 
than youth had leisure to see. " I will hope always " 
becomes sublime from aged lips, which are so often 
shaped to say, " I have nothing left to hope for now." 

This psalmist's words may well be a pattern for old 
men, who need fear no failure of buoyancy, nor any 
collapse of gladness, if they will fix their thoughts 
where this singer did his. Other subjects of thought 
and speech will pall and run dry ; but he whose theme 
is God's righteousness and the salvation that flows 
from it will never lack materials for animating medita- 
tion and grateful praise. " I know not the numbers 
thereof" It is something to have fast hold of an 
inexhaustible subject. It will keep an old man young. 

The psalmist recognises his task, which is also his 
joy, to declare God's wondrous works, and prays for 
God's help till he has discharged it. The conscious- 
ness of a vocation to speak to later generations 
inspires him, and assures him that he is immortal till 
his work is done. His anticipations have been fulfilled 


beyond his knowledge. His words will last as long as 
the world. But men with narrower spheres may be 
animated by the same consciousness, and they who 
have rightly understood the purpose of God's mercies 
to themselves will, like the psalmist, recognise in their 
own participation in His salvation an imperative 
command to make it known, and an assurance that 
nothing shall by any means harm them till they have 
fulfilled their witnessing. A many- wintered saint should 
be a convincing witness for God. 

Ver. 20, with its sudden transition to the plural, may 
simply show that the singer passes out from individual 
contemplation to the consciousness of the multitude of 
fellow-sufferers and fellow-participants in God's mercy. 
Such transition is natural; for the most private pas- 
sages of a good man's communion with God are swift 
to bring up the thought of others like-minded and 
similarly blessed. " Suddenly there was with the 
angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising." 
Every solo swells into a chorus. Again the song 
returns to " my " and " me," the confidence of the 
single soul being reinvigorated by the thought of 
sharers in blessing. 

So all ends with the certainty of, and the vow of 
praise for, deliverances already realised in faith, though 
not in fact. But the imitative character of the psalm 
is maintained even in this last triumphant vow ; for 
ver. 24 a is almost identical with xxxv. 28 ; and 3, as has 
been already pointed out, is copied from several other 
psalms. But imitative words are none the less sincere ; 
and new thankfulness may be run into old moulds, 
without detriment to its acceptableness to God and 
preciousness to men. 


1 O God, give Thy judgments to the king, 
And Thy righteousness to the king's son. 

2 May he judge Thy people with righteousness, 
And Thine afflicted with judgment ! 

3 May the mountains bring forth peace to the peopl^ 
And the hills, through righteousness ! 

4 May he judge the afflicted of the peopl^ 
Save the children of the needy, 

And crush the oppressor I 

5 May they fear Thee as long as the sun shines, 

And as long as the moon shows her face, generation after 
generation I 
/6 May he come down like rain upon mown pasture, 
Like showers — a heavy downpour on the earth ^ 

7 May the righteous flourish in his days, 

And abundance of peace, till there be no more a moon I 

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea. 

And from the River to the ends of the earth 1 

9 Before him shall the desert peoples bow ; 
And his enemies shall lick the dust. 

10 The kings of Tarshish and the isles shall bring tributes 
The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. 

11 And all kings shall fall down before him : 
All nations shall serve him. 

12 For he shall deliver the needy when he cries, 
And the afflicted, and him who has no helper. 

13 He shall spare the weak and needy. 
And the souls of the needy shall he save. 

14 From oppression and from violence he shall ransom their soul 5 
And precious shall their blood be in his eyes. 


15 So that he lives and gives to him of the gold of Sheba, 
And prays for him continually, 

Blesses him all the day. 

16 May there be abundance of corn in the earth on the top of the 

mountains ! 
May its fruit rustle like Lebanon I 
And may [men] spring from the city like grass of the earth 1 

17 May his name last for ever ! 

May his name send forth shoots as long as the sun shines. 
And may men bless themselves in him, 
May all nations pronounce him blessed 1 

18 Blessed be Jehovah, God, the God of Israel, 
Who only doeth wondrous works, 

19 And blessed be His glorious name for ever, 
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory I 

Amen, and Amen. 

20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. 

RIGHTLY or wrongly, the superscription ascribes 
this psalm to Solomon. Its contents have led 
several commentators to take the superscription in a 
meaning for which there is no warrant, as designating 
the subject, not the author. Clearly, the whole is a 
prayer for the king ; but why should not he be both 
suppliant and object of supplication ? Modern critics 
reject this as incompatible with the ** phraseological 
evidence," and adduce the difference between the 
historical Solomon and the ideal of the psalm as 
negativing reference to him. Ver. 8 is said by them to 
be quoted from Zech. ix. 10, though Cheyne doubts 
whether there is borrowing. Ver. 1 7 ^ is said to be 
dependent on Gen. xxii. 1 8, xxvi. 4, which are assumed 
to be later than the seventh century. Ver. 12 is taken 
to be a reminiscence of Job xxix. 12, and ver. 16 b 
of Job V. 25. But these are too uncertain criteria to 
use as conclusive, — partly because coincidence does not 

Ixxii.] THE PSALMS 3>7 

necessarily imply quotation ; partly because, quotation 
being admitted, the delicate question of priority remains, 
which can rarely be settled by comparison of the 
passages in question ; and partly because, quotation and 
priority being admitted, the date of the original is still 
under discussion. The impossibility of Solomon's 
praying thus for himself does not seem to the present 
writer so completely established that the hypothesis 
must be abandoned, especially if the alternative is to 
be, as Hitzig, followed by Olshausen and Cheyne, 
proposes, that the king in the psalm is Ptolemy Phila- 
delphus, to whom Psalm xlv. is fitted by the same 
authorities. Baethgen puts the objections which most 
will feel to such a theory with studied moderation when 
he says " that the promises given to the patriarchs in 
Gen. xxii. i8, xxvi. 4, should be transferred by a pious 
Israelite to a foreign king appears to me improbable." 
But another course is open — namely, to admit that the 
psalm gives no materials for defining its date, beyond the 
fact that a king of Davidic descent was reigning when 
it was composed. The authorship may be left uncer- 
tain, as may the name of the king for whom such far- 
reaching blessings were invoked ; for he was but a 
partial embodiment of the kingly idea, and the very 
disproportion between the reality seen in any Jewish 
monarch and the lofty idealisms of the psalm compels us 
to regard the earthly ruler as but a shadow, and the 
true theme of the singer as being the Messianic King. 
We are not justified, however, in attempting to transfer 
every point of the psalmist's prayer to the Messiah. 
The historical occasion of the psalm is to be kept in 
mind. A human monarch stands in the foreground ; 
but the aspirations expressed are so far beyond anything 
that he is or can be, that they are either extravagant 


flattery, or reach out beyond their immediate occasion 
to the King Messiah. 

The psalm is not properly a prediction, but a 
prayer. There is some divergence of opinion as to 
the proper rendering of the principal verbs, — some, as 
the A.V. and R.V. (text), taking them as uniformly 
futures, which is manifestly wrong ; some taking them 
as expressions of wish throughout, which is also 
questionable; and others recognising pure futures 
intermingled with petitions, which seems best. The 
boundaries of the two are difficult to settle, just because 
the petitions are so confident that they are all but 
predictions, and the two melt into each other in the 
singer's mind. The flow of thought is simple. The 
psalmist's prayers are broadly massed. In vv. 1-4 he 
prays for the foundation of the king's reign in right- 
eousness, which will bring peace ; in vv. 5-7 for its 
perpetuity, and in w. 8-1 1 for its universality; while 
in vv. 12-15 th^ ground of both these characteristics 
is laid in the king's becoming the champion of the 
oppressed. A final prayer for the increase of his 
people and the perpetuity and world-wide glory of his 
name concludes the psalm, to which are appended in 
w. 18-20 a doxology, closing the Second Book of the 

The first petitions of the psalm all ask for one thing 
for the king — namely, that he should give righteous 
judgment. They reflect the antique conception of a 
king as the fountain of justice, himself making and 
administering law and giving decisions. Thrice in 
these four verses does ** righteousness " occur as the 
foundation attribute of an ideal king. Caprice, self- 
interest, and tyrannous injustice were rank in the 
world's monarchies round the psalmist. Bitter experi- 

IxxiiJ THE PSALMS 319 

ence and sad observation had taught him that the first 
condition of national prosperity was a righteous ruler. 
These petitions are also animated by the conception, 
which is as true in the modern as in the ancient world, 
that righteousness has its seat in the bosom of God, 
and that earthly judgments are righteous when they 
conform to and are the echo of His. " Righteousness " 
is the quality of mind, of which the several "judg- 
ments" are the expressions. This king sits on an 
ancestral throne. His people are God's people. Since, 
then, he is God's viceroy, the desire cannot be vain 
that in his heart there may be some reflection of God's 
righteousness, and that his decisions may accord with 
God's. One cannot but remember Solomon's prayer 
for " an understanding heart," that he might judge this 
people ; nor forget how darkly his later reign showed 
against its bright beginning. A righteous king makes 
a peaceful people, especially in a despotic monarchy. 
The sure results of such a reign — which are, likewise, 
the psalmist's chief reason for his petitions — are set 
forth in the vivid metaphor of ver. 3, in which peace is 
regarded as the fruit which springs, by reason of the 
king's righteousness, from mountains and hills. This 
psalmist has special fondness for that figure of vegetable 
growth (vv. 7, 16, 17); and it is especially suitable in 
this connection, as peace is frequently represented in 
Scripture as the fruit of righteousness, both in single 
souls and in a nation's history. The mountains come 
into view here simply as being the most prominent 
features of the land, and not, as in ver. 16, with any 
reference to their barrenness, which would make 
abundant growth on them more wonderful, and indica- 
tive of yet greater abundance on the plains. 

A special manifestation of judicial righteousness is 


the vindication of the oppressed and the punishment of 
the oppressor (ver. 4). The word rendered "judge " in 
ver. 4 differs from that in ver. 2, and is the same from 
which the name of the " Judges " in Israel is derived. 
Like them, this king is not only to pronounce decisions, 
as the word in ver. 2 means, but is to execute justice 
by acts of deliverance, which smite in order to rescue. 
Functions which policy and dignity require to be kept 
apart in the case of earthly rulers are united in the 
ideal monarch. He executes his own sentences. His 
acts are decisions. The psalmist has no thought of 
inferior officers by the king's side. One figure fills 
his mind and his canvas. Surely such an ideal is 
either destined to remain for ever a fair dream, or its 
fulfilment is to be recognised in the historical Person 
in whom God's righteousness dwelt in higher fashion 
than psalmists knew, who was, "first. King of 
righteousness, and then, after that, also King of 
peace," and who, by His deed, has broken every yoke, 
and appeared as the defender of all the needy. The 
poet prayed that Israel's king might perfectly discharge 
his office by Divine help ; the Christian gives thanks 
that the King of men has been and done all which 
Israel's monarchs failed to be and do. 

The perpetuity of the king's reign and of his subjects' 
peace is the psalmist's second aspiration (vv. 5-7). 
The "Thee" of ver. 5 presents a difficulty, as it is 
doubtful to whom it refers. Throughout the psalm the 
king is spoken q/J and never to ; and if it is further 
noticed that, in the preceding verses, God has been 
directly addressed, and " Thy " used thrice in regard to 
Him, it will appear more natural to take the reference 
in ver. 5 to be to Him. The fear of God would be 
diffused among the king's subjects, as a consequence 

Ixxii.] THE PSALMS 321 

of his rule in righteousness. Hupfeld takes the word 
as referring to the king, and suggests changing the 
text to ** him " instead of " Thee " ; while others, among 
whom are Cheyne and Baethgen, follow the track of 
the LXX. in adopting a reading which may be trans- 
lated ^* May he live," or " Prolong his days," But 
the thought yielded by the existing text, if referred to 
God, is most natural and worthy. The king is, as 
it were, the shadow on earth of God's righteousness, 
and consequently becomes an organ for the manifesta- 
tion thereof, in such manner as to draw men to true 
devotion. The psalmist's desires are for something 
higher than external prosperity, and his conceptions 
of the kingly office are very sacred. Not only peace 
and material well-being, but also the fear of Jehovah, 
are longed for by him to be diffused in Israel. And 
he prays that these blessings may be perpetual. The 
connection between the king's righteousness and the 
fear of God requires that that permanence should 
belong to both. The cause is as lasting as its effect. 
Through generation after generation he desires that 
each shall abide. He uses peculiar expressions for 
continual duration : ** with the sun " — t'.e.^ contem- 
poraneous with that unfading splendour; "before the 
face of the moon " — i.e., as long as she shines. But 
could the singer anticipate such length of dominion 
for any human king ? Psalm xxi. has similar language 
in regard to the same person ; and here, as there, 
it seems sufficiently accounted for by the considera- 
tion that, while the psalmist was speaking of an 
individual, he was thinking of the office rather than of 
the person, and that the perpetual continuance of the 
Davidic dynasty, not the undying life of any one 
representative of it, was meant. The full light of the 

VOL. IL 21 


truth that there is a king whose royalty, hke his priest- 
hood, passes to no other is not to be forced upon the 
psalm. It stands as a witness that devout and inspired 
souls longed for the establishment of a kingdom, 
against which revolutions and enemies and mortality 
were powerless. They knew not that their desires 
could not be fulfilled by the longest succession of dying 
kings, but were to be more than accomplished by One, 
" of whom it is witnessed that He liveth." 

CThe psalmist turns for a moment from his prayer 
for the perpetuity of the king's rule, to linger upon the 
thought of its blessedness as set forth in the lovely 
image of ver. 6. Rain upon mown grass is no blessing, 
as every farmer knows ; but what is meant is, not the 
grass which has already been mown, but the naked 
meadow from which it has been taken. It needs 
drenching showers, in order to sprout again and pro- 
duce an aftermath.j The poet's eye is caught by the 
contrast between the bare look of the field immediately 
after cutting and the rich growth that springs, as by 
magic, from the yellow roots after a plentiful shower. 
This king's gracious influences shall fall upon even 
what seems dead, and charm forth hidden life that 
will flush the plain with greenness. The psalmist 
dwells on the picture, reiterating the comparison in 
ver. 6 by and using there an uncommon word, which 
seems best rendered as meaning a heavy rainfall. 
With such afQuence of quickening powers will the 
righteous king bless his people. The ^'Mirror for 
Magistrates," which is held up in the lovely poem 
in 2 Sam. xxiii. 4, has a remarkable parallel in its 
description of the just ruler as resembling a ** morning 
without clouds, when the tender grass springeth out 
of the earth through cl^ar shining after rain " ; but the 

ixxii.] THE PSALMS 323 

psalmist heightens the metaphor by the introduction 
of the mown meadow as stimulated to new growth. 
This image of the rain Ungers with him and shapes 
his prayer in ver. y a. A righteous king will insure 
prosperity to the righteous, and the number of such 
will increase. Both these ideas seem to be contained 
in the figure of their flourishing, which is literally bud 
or shoot. And, as the people become more and more 
prevailingly righteous, they receive more abundant and 
unbroken peace. The psalmist had seen deeply into 
the conditions of national prosperity, as well as those ojF 
individual tranquillity, when he based these on rectitude. 
With ver. 8 the singer takes a still loftier flight, and 
prays for the universality of the king's dominion. In 
that verse the form of the verb is that which expresses 
desire, but in ver. 9 and following verses the verbs 
may be rendered as simple futures. Confident prayers 
insensibly melt into assurances of their own fulfilment. 
As the psalmist pours out his petitions, they glide into 
prophecies ; for they are desires fashioned upon promises, 
and bear, in their very earnestness, the pledge of their 
realisation. As to the details of the form which the 
expectation of universal dominion here takes, it need 
only be noted that we have to do with a poet, not with 
a geographer. We are not to treat the expressions 
as if they were instructions to a boundary commission, 
and to be laid down upon a map. " The sea " is pro- 
bably the Mediterranean ; but what the other sea which 
makes the opposite boundary may be is hard to say. 
Commentators have thought of the Persian Gulf, or of 
an imaginary ocean encircling the flat earth, accord- 
ing to ancient ideas But more probably the expression 
is as indeterminate as the parallel one, ^^ the ends of the 
earth." In the first clause of the verse the psalmist 


Starts from the Mediterranean, the western boundary, 
and his anticipations travel away into the unknown 
eastern regions ; while, in the second clause, he begins 
with the Euphrates, which was the eastern boundary 
of the dominion promised to Israel, and, coming west- 
ward, he passes out in thought to the dim regions 
beyond. The very impossibility of defining the boun- 
daries declares the boundlessness of the kingdom. The 
poet's eyes have looked east and west, and in ver. 9 he 
turns to the south, and sees the desert tribes, uncon- 
quered as they have hitherto been, grovelling before 
the king, and his enemies in abject submission at his 
feet. The word rendered " desert peoples " is that used 
in Psalm Ixxiv. 14 for wild beasts inhabiting the desert, 
but here it can only mean wilderness tribes. There 
seems no need to alter the text, as has been proposed, 
and to read '^adversaries." In ver. lO the psalmist 
again looks westward, across the mysterious ocean of 
which he, like all his nation, knew so little. The great 
city of Tarshish lay for him at the farthest bounds of 
the world ; and between him and it, or perhaps still 
farther out in the waste unknown, were islands from 
which rich and strange things sometimes reached Judaea. 
These shall bring their wealth in token of fealty. 
Again he looks southward to Sheba in Arabia, and 
Seba far south below Egypt, and foresees their sub- 
mission. His knowledge of distant lands is exhausted, 
and therefore he ceases enumeration, and falls back 
on comprehensiveness. How little he knew, and how 
much he believed 1 His conceptions of the sweep of 
that " all " were childish ; his faith that, however many 
these unknown kings and nations were, God's anointed 
was their king was either extravagant exaggeration, 
or it was nurtured in him by God, and meant to be 

Ixxii.] THE PSALMS 325 

fulfilled when a world, wide beyond his dreams and 
needy beyond his imagination, should own the sway of 
a King, endowed with God's righteousness and com- 
municative of God's peace, in a manner and measure 
beyond his desires. 

The triumphant swell of these anticipations passes 
with wonderful pathos into gentler music, as if the 
softer tones of flutes should follow trumpet blasts. 
How tenderly and profoundly the psalm bases the 
universality of the dominion on the pitying care and 
delivering power of the King I The whole secret of 
sway over men lies in that '' For," which ushers in the 
gracious picture of the beneficent and tender-hearted 
Monarch. The world is so full of sorrow, and men are 
so miserable and needy, that he who can stanch their 
wounds, solace their griefs, and shelter their lives will 
win their hearts and be crowned their king. Thrones 
based on force are as if set on an iceberg which melts 
away. There is no solid foundation for rule except 
helpfulness. In the world and for a little while " they 
that exercise authority are called benefactors " ; but in 
the long-run the terms of the sentence are inverted, 
and they that are rightly called benefactors exercise 
authority. The more earthly rulers approximate to this 
ideal portrait, the more *' broad-based upon their people's 
will " and love will their thrones stand. If Israel's 
kings had adhered to it, their throne would have 
endured. But their failures point to Him in whom the 
principle declared by the psalmist receives its most 
tender illustration. The universal dominion of Jesus 
Christ is based upon the fact that He ^' tasted death 
for every man." In the Divine purpose, He has won 
the right to rule men because He has died for them. 
In historical realisation, He wins men's submission 


because He has given Himself for them. Therefore 
does He command with absolute authority ; therefore 
do we obey with entire submission. His sway not 
only reaches out over all the earth, inasmuch as the 
power of His cross extends to all men, but it lays hold 
of the inmost will and makes submission a delight. 

The king is represented in ver. 14 as taking on 
himself the office of Goel, or Kinsman-Redeemer, and 
ransoming his subjects' lives from " deceit and violence." 
That " their blood is precious in his eyes " is another 
way of saying that they are too dear to him to be 
suffered to perish. This king*s treasure is the life of 
his subjects. Therefore he will put forth his power 
to preserve them and deliver them. The result of 
such tender care and dehvering love is set forth in 
ver. 1 5, but in obscure language. The ambiguity arises 
from the absence of expressed subjects for the four 
verbs in the verse. Who is he who " lives " ? Is the 
same person the giver of the gold of Sheba, and to 
whom is it given ? Who prays, and for whom ? And 
who blesses, and whom does he bless ? The plain 
way of understanding the verse is to suppose that the 
person spoken of in all the clauses is the same ; and 
then the question comes whether he is the king or the 
ransomed man. Difficulties arise in carrying out either 
reference through all the clauses ; and hence attempts 
have been made to vary the subject of the verbs. 
Delitzsch, for instance, supposes that it is the ransomed 
man who " lives," the king who gives to the ransomed 
man gold, and the man who prays for and blesses the 
king. But such an arbitrary shuttling about of the 
reference of " he " and " him " is impossible. Other 
attempts of a similar kind need not be noticed here. 
The only satisfactory course is to take one person as 

Ixxii.] THE PSALMS 327 

spoken of by all the verbs. But then the question comes, 
Who is he ? There is much to be said in favour of 
either hypothesis as answering that question. The 
phrase which is rendered above ** So that he lives " 
is so like the common invocation " May the king live/' 
that it strongly favours taking the whole verse as a 
continuance of the petitions for the monarch. But if 
so, the verb in the second clause {he shall give) must 
be taken impersonally, as equivalent to " one will give " 
or " there shall be given," and those in the remain- 
ing clauses must be similarly dealt with, or the text 
altered so as to make them plurals, reading, '*They 
shall pray for him (the king), . . . and shall bless him." 
On the whole, it is best to suppose that the ransomed 
man is the subject throughout, and that the verse 
describes his glad tribute, and continual thankfulness. 
Ransomed from death, he brings offerings to his 
deliverer. It seems singular that he should be con- 
ceived of both as " needy " and as owning *' gold " 
which he can offer ; but in the literal application the 
incongruity is not sufficient to prevent the adoption of 
this view of the clause ; and in the higher application 
of the words to Christ and His subjects, which we 
conceive to be warranted, the incongruity becomes fine 
and deep truth ; for the poorest soul, delivered by Him, 
can bring tribute, which He esteems as precious beyond 
all earthly treasure. Nor need the remaining clauses 
militate against the view that the ransomed man is the 
subject in them. The psalm had a historical basis, and 
all its points cannot be introduced into the Messianic 
interpretation. This one of praying for the king 
cannot be ; notwithstanding the attempts of some com- 
mentators to find a meaning for it in Chris jan prayers 
for the spread of Christ's kingdom. That explanation 


does violence to the language, mistakes the nature of 
Messianic prophecy, and brings discredit on the view 
that the psalm has a Messianic character. 

The last part of the psalm (vv. i6, if) recurs to 
petitions for the growth of the nation and the perpetual 
flourishing of the king's name. The fertility of the 
land and the increase of its people are the psalmist's 
desires, which are also certainties, as expressed in 
ver. 1 6. He sees in imagination the whole land 
waving with abundant harvests, which reach even to 
the tops of the mountains, and rustle in the summer 
air, with a sound like the cedars of Lebanon, when they 
move their layers of greenness to the breeze. The 
word rendered above " abundance " is doubtful ; but 
there does not seem to be in the psalmist's mind the 
contrast which he is often supposed to be expressing, 
beautiful and true as it, is between the small beginnings 
and the magnificent end of the kingdom on earth. 
The mountains are here thought of as lofty and barren. 
If waving harvests clothe their gaunt sides, how will 
the vales laugh in plentiful crops ! As the earth 
yields her increase, so the people of the king shall be 
multiplied, and from all his cities they shall spring 
forth abundant as grass. That figure would bear 
much expansion ; for what could more beautifully set 
forth rapidity of growth, close-knit community, multipli- 
cation of units, and absorption of these in a lovely 
whole, than the picture of a meadow clothed with its 
grassy carpet ? Such hopes had only partial fulfilment 
in Israel. Nor have they had adequate fulfilment up 
till now. But they lie on the horizon of the future, 
and they shall one day be reached. Much that is dim 
is treasured in them. There may be a renovated world, 
from which the curse of barrenness has been banished. 

Ixxii.] THE PSALMS 329 

There shall be a swift increase of the subjects of the 
King, until the earlier hope of the psalm is fulfilled, 
and all nations shall serve Him. 

But bright as are the poet's visions concerning the 
kingdom, his last gaze is fastened on its king, and he 
prays that his name may last for ever, and may send 
forth shoots as long as the sun shines in the sky. He 
probably meant no more than a prayer for the continual 
duration of the dynasty, and his conception of the name 
as sending forth shoots was probably that of its being 
perpetuated in descendants. But, as has been already 
noticed, the perpetuity, which he conceived of as belong- 
ing to a family and an office, really belongs to the One 
King, Jesus Christ, whose Name is above every name, 
and will blossom anew in fresh revelations of its infinite 
contents, not only while the sun shines, but when its 
fires are cold and its light quenched. The psalmist's 
last desire is that the ancient promise to the fathers 
may be fulfilled in the King, their descendant, in whom 
men shall bless themselves. So full of blessedness 
may He seem to all men, that they shall take Him for 
the very type of felicity, and desire to be even as He 
is I In men's relation to Christ the phrase assumes a 
deeper meaning still ; and though that is not intended 
by the psalmist, and is not the exposition of his words, 
it still is true that in Christ all blessings for humanity 
are stored, and that therefore if men are to be truly 
blessed they must plunge themselves into Him, and in 
Him find all that they need for blessedness and mobility 
of life and character. If He is our supreme type of 
whatsoever things are fair and of good report, and if 
we have bowed ourselves to Him because He has 
delivered us from death, then we share in His life, 
and all His blessings are parted among us. 





1 Surely God is good to Israel, 
To those who are pure in heart ; 

2 But I — within a little of turning aside were my fee^ 
AH but slipping were my steps. 

3 For I was envious of the foolish, 

When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 

4 For they have no bonds [dragging them] to death. 
And their body is lusty. 

5 In the trouble belonging to frail mortals they have no part. 
And [in common] with men they are not smitten* 

6 Therefore pride is their necklace; 
Violence covers them as a robe, 

7 Out of fat their eye flashes ; 

The imaginations of their heart overflow. 

8 They mock and speak wickedly of oppressioi^ 
[As] from on high they speak. 

9 They set in the heavens their mouth, 
And their tongue stalks on the earth. 

10 Therefore he turns his people thither, 

And waters of abundance are drunk up by them. 

1 1 And they say, How does God know ? 
And is there knowledge in the Most High ? 

12 Behold 1 these are wicked, 

And, prosperous for ever, they have increased their wealth. 

13 Surely in vain have I cleansed my heart, 
And in innocency have washed my hands. 

14 Yet have I been smitten all the day, 
And my correction [came] every morning. 

15 If I had said, I will speak thus. 

Behold, I should have been unfaithful to the generation of Thy 



16 When I gave thought in order to understand thisy 
It was too difficult in my eyes — 

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God, 
And gave heed to their end. 

18 Surely in slippery places Thou dost set them{ 
Thou castest them down to ruins. 

19 How are they become a desolation in a moment. 
Are ended, consumed with terrors! 

20 Like a dream on awaking, 

So Lord, on [Thy] arousing. Thou wilt despise their shadowy 
' form. 

21 For my heart was growing bitter, 
And I was pricked [in] my reins. 

22 And I, I was brutish and ignorant, 
A [very] beast was I before Thee. 

23 And yet I, I am continually with Thee ; 
Thou hast grasped [me] by my right hand. 

24 In Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, 
And afterwards to glory wilt " take " me. 

25 Whom have I in heaven ? 

And, possessing Thee, I have no delight on earth« 

26 [Though] my flesh and my heart fail. 

The rock of my heart and my portion is God for ever, 

27 For, behold, they that are far from Thee shall perish ; 
Thou hast destroyed every one that goes whoring from Thee, 

28 But I, I — to draw near to God is good to me; 
I have made in the Lord Jehovah my refuge. 
That I may recount all Thy works. 

THE perennial problem of reconciling God's moral 
government with observed facts is grappled with 
in this psalm, as in Psalms xxxvii. and xlix. It tells 
how the prosperity of the godless, in apparent flat 
contradiction of Divine promises, had all but swept the 
psalmist from his faith, and how he was led, through 
doubt and struggle, to closer communion with God, 
in which he learned, not only the evanescence of the 
external well-being which had so perplexed him, but 

Ixxiii.] THE PSALMS 335 

the eternity of the true blessedness belonging to the 
godly. His solution of the problem is in part that of 
the two psalms just mentioned, but it surpasses them 
in its clear recognition that the portion of the right- 
eous, which makes their lot supremely blessed, is no 
mere earthly prosperity, but God Himself, and in its 
pointing to " glory " which comes afterwards, as one 
element in the solution of the problem. 

The psalm falls into two divisions, in the first of 
which (vv. I- 14) the psalmist tells of his doubts, and, in 
the second (w. 1 5-28), of his victory over them. The 
body of the psalm is divided into groups of four 
verses, and it has an introduction and conclusion of 
two verses each. 

The introduction (vv. i, 2) asserts, with an accent of 
assurance, the conviction which the psalmist had all 
but lost, and therefore had the more truly won. The 
initial word " Surely " is an indication of his past 
struggle, when the truth that God was good to Israel 
had seemed so questionable. ** This I have learned 
by doubts ; this I now hold as most sure ; this I pro- 
claim, impugn it who list, and seem to contradict it 
what may." The decisiveness of the psalmist's con- 
viction does not lead him to exaggeration. He does 
not commit himself to the thesis that outward pros- 
perity attends Israel. That God is good to those who 
truly bear that name is certain ; but how He shows His 
goodness, and who these are, the psalmist has, by his 
struggles, learned to conceive of in a more spiritual 
fashion than before. That goodness may be plainly 
seen in sorrows, and it is only sealed to those who are 
what the name of Israel imports — " pure in heart." 
That such are blessed in possessing God, and that 
neither are any other blessed, nor is there any other 


blessedness, are the lessons which the singer has 
brought with him from the darkness, and by which 
the ancient faith of the well-being of the righteous is 
set on surer foundations than before. 

The avowal of conquered doubts follows on this 
clear note of certitude. There is a tinge of shame in 
the emphatic " I " of ver. 2, and in the broken con- 
struction and the change of subject to " my feet " and 
"my steps." The psalmist looks back to that dreary 
time, and sees more clearly than he did, while he was 
caught in the toils of perplexity and doubt, how narrow 
had been his escape from casting away his confidence. 
He shudders as he remembers it ; but he can do so 
now from the vantage-ground of tried and regained 
faith. How eloquently the order of thought in these 
two verses speaks of the complete triumph over doubt I 

In the first quatrain of verses, the prosperity of the 
godless, which had been the psalmist's stumbling- 
block, is described. Two things are specified — 
physical health, and exemption from calamity. The 
former is the theme of ver. 4. Its first clause is 
doubtful. The word rendered "bands" only occurs 
here and in Isa. Iviii. 6. It literally means bands, 
but may pass into the figurative signification of pains, 
and is sometimes by some taken in that meaning here, 
and the whole clause as asserting that the wicked have 
painless and peaceful deaths. But such a declaration 
is impossible in the face of vv. 18, 19, which assert 
the very opposite, and would be out of place at this 
point of the psalm, which is here occupied with the 
hves, not the deaths, of the ungodly. Hupfeld translates 
** They are without pains even until their deaths " ; but 
that rendering puts an unusual sense on the preposition 
" to," which is not " till." A very plausible conjecture 

Ixxiii.] THE PSALMS 337 

alters the division of words, splitting the one which 
means " to their death " (Tmotham) into two (lamo 
tam)y of which the former is attached to the preceding 
words (" there are no pains to them " =: '* they have no 
pains "), and the latter to the following clause (" Sound 
and well nourished is," etc.). This suggestion is 
adopted by Ewald and most modern commentators, and 
has much in its favour. If the existing text is retained, 
the rendering above seems best. It describes the pros- 
perous worldling as free from troubles or diseases, 
which would be like chains on a captive, by which he 
is dragged to execution. It thus gives a parallel to 
the next clause, which describes their bodies (lit., 
belly) as stalwart. Ver. 5 carries on the description, 
and paints the wicked's exemption from trouble. The 
first clause is literally, " In the trouble of man they 
are not." The word for man here is that which con- 
notes frailty and mortality, while in the next clause 
it is the generic term " Adam." Thus the prosperous 
worldlings appeared to the psalmist, in his times of 
scepticism, as possessing charmed lives, which were 
free from all the ills that came from frailty and 
mortality, and, as like superior beings, lifted above 
the universal lot. But what did their exemption do 
for them ? Its effects might have taught the doubter 
that the prosperity at which his faith staggered was 
no blessing, for it only inflated its recipients with pride, 
and urged them on to high-handed acts. Very graphic- 
ally does ver. 6 paint them as having the former for 
their necklace, and the latter for their robe. A proud 
man carries a stiff neck and a high head. Hence the 
picture in ver. 6 of '* pride " as wreathed about their 
necks as a chain or necklace. High-handed violence 
is their garment, according to the familiar metaphor by 

VOL. II, 22 


which a man*s characteristics are hkened to his dress, 
the garb of his soul. The double meaning of " habit," 
and the connection between "custom" and "costume," 
suggest the same figure. As the clothing wraps the 
body and is visible to the world, so insolent violence, 
masterfulness enforced by material weapons and con- 
temptuous of others' rights, characterised these men, 
who had never learned gentleness in the school of 
suffering. Tricked out with a necklace of pride and 
a robe of violence, they strutted among men, and 
thought themselves far above the herd, and secure from 
the touch of trouble. 

The next group of verses (w. 7-10) further describes 
the unfeeling insolence begotten of unbroken prosperity, 
and the crowd of hangers-on, admirers, and imitators 
attendant on the successful wicked. " Out of fat 
their eye flashes " gives a graphic picture of the fierce 
glare of insolent eyes, set in well-fed faces. But 
graphic as it is, it scarcely fits the context so well 
as does a proposed amended reading, which by a very 
small change in the word rendered " their eye " yields 
the meaning " their iniquity," and takes " fat " as 
equivalent to a fat, that is, an obstinate, self-confident, 
or unfeeling heart. " From an unfeeling heart their 
iniquity comes forth " makes a perfect parallel with 
the second clause of the verse rightly rendered, "the 
imaginations of their heart overflow " ; and both clauses 
paint the arrogant tempers and bearing of the worldlings. 
Ver. 8 deals with the manifestation of these in speech. 
Well-to-do wickedness delights in making suffering 
goodness a butt for its coarse jeers. It does not need 
much wit to do that. Clumsy jests are easy, and poverty 
is fair game for vulgar wealth's ridicule. But there 
is a dash of ferocity in such laughter, and such jests 

Ixxiii.] THE PSALMS 339 

pass quickly into earnest, and wicked oppression. " As 
from on high they speak/' — fancying themselves set 
on a pedestal above the common masses. The LXX., 
followed by many moderns, attaches "oppression" to the 
second clause, which makes the verse more symmetrical ; 
but the existing division of clauses yields an appropriate 

The description of arrogant speech is carried on 
in ver. 9, which has been variously understood, as 
referring in a to blasphemy against God (" they set 
against the heavens their mouth "), and in b to sJander 
against men ; or, as in a, continuing the thought of 
ver. 8 by and designating their words as spoken as if 
from heaven itself, and in b ascribing to their words 
sovereign power among men. But it is better to regard 
" heaven " and " earth " as the ordinary designation 
of the whole visible frame of things, and to take the 
verse as describing the self-sufficiency which gives its 
opinions and lays down the law about everything, and, 
on the other hand, the currency and influence which 
are accorded by the popular voice to the dicta of 
prosperous worldlings. 

That thought prepares the way for the enigmatic 
verse which follows. There are several obscure points 
in it. First, the verb in the Hebrew text means turns 
(transitive), which the Hebrew margin corrects into 
returns (intransitive). With the former reading, " his 
people " is the object of the verb, and the implied subject 
is the prosperous wicked man, the change to the singular 
" he " from the plural " they " of the preceding clauses 
being not unusual in Hebrew. With the latter reading, 
" his people " is the subject. The next question is to 
whom the '* people " are conceived as belonging. It is, 
at first sight, natural to think of the frequent Scripture 


expression, and to take the " his " as referring to God, 
and the phrase to mean the true Israel. But the 
meaning seems rather to be the mob of parasites and 
hangers-on, who servilely follow the successful sinner, 
in hope of some crumbs from his table. " Thither " 
means " to himself," and the whole describes how such 
a one as the man whose portrait has just been drawn 
is sure to attract a retinue of dependants, who say 
as he says, and would fain be what he is. The last 
clause describes the share of these parasites in their 
patron's prosperity. " Waters of abundance " — i,e.^ 
abundant waters — may be ah emblem of the pernicious 
principles of the wicked, which their followers swallow 
greedily ; but it is more probably a figure for fulness 
of material good, which rewards the humiliation of 
servile adherents to the prosperous worldling. 

The next group (vv. 11-14) begins with an utter- 
ance of unbelief or doubt, but it is difficult to reach 
certainty as to the speakers. It is very natural to 
refer the " they " to the last-mentioned persons — namely, 
the people who have been led to attach themselves to 
the prosperous sinners, and who, by the example of 
these, are led to question the reality of God's acquaint- 
ance with and moral government of human affairs. 
The question is, as often, in reality a denial. But 
^' they " may have a more general sense, equivalent to 
our own colloquial use of it for an indefinite multitude. 
" They say " — that is, '* the common opinion and rumour 
is." So here, the meaning may be, that the sight of 
such flushed and flourishing wickedness diffuses wide- 
spread and deep-going doubts of God's knowledge, and 
makes many infidels. 

Ewald, Delitzsch, and others take all the verses of 
this group as spoken by the followers of the ungodly ; 

Ixxiii.] THE PSALMS 341 

and, unquestionably, that view avoids the difficulty of 
allotting the parts to different unnamed interlocutors. 
But it raises difficulties of another kind — as, for instance, 
those of supposing that these adulators should roundly 
call their patrons wicked, and that an apostate should 
profess that he has cleansed his heart. The same 
objections do not hold against the view that these four 
verses are the utterance, not of the wicked rich man 
or his coterie of admirers, but of the wider number 
whose faith has been shaken. There is nothing in the 
verses which would be unnatural on such lips. 

Ver. II would then be a question anxiously raised 
by faith that was beginning to reel ; ver. 1 2 would 
be a statement of the anomalous fact which staggered 
it; and vv. 13, 14, the complaint of the afQicted godly. 
The psalmist's repudiation of a share in such incipient 
scepticism would begin with ver. 15. There is much 
in favour of this view of the speakers, but against it 
is the psalmist's acknowledgment, in ver. 2, that his 
own confidence in God's moral government had been 
shaken, of which there is no further trace in the psalm, 
unless vv. 13, 14, express the conclusion which he had 
been tempted to draw, and which, as he proceeds to 
say, he had fought down. If these two verses are 
ascribed to him, ver. 12 is best regarded as a summary 
of the whole preceding part, and only ver. ii as 
the utterance either of the prosperous sinner and his 
adherents (in which case it is a question which means 
denial), or as that of troubled faith (in which case it 
is a question that would fain be an affirmation, but has 
been forced unwillingly to regard the very pillars of 
the universe as trembling). 

Vv. 15-18 tell how the psalmist strove with and 
finally conquered his doubts, and saw enough of the 


great arc of the Divine dealings, to be sure that the 
anomaly, which had exercised his faith, was capable of 
complete reconciliation with the righteousness of Provi- 
dence. It is instructive to note that he silenced his 
doubts, out of regard to " the generation of Thy 
children " — that is, to the true Israel, the pure in heart. 
He was tempted to speak as others did not fear to 
speak, impugning God's justice and proclaiming the 
uselessness of purity ; but he locked his lips, lest his 
words should prove him untrue to the consideration 
which he owed to meek and simple hearts, who knew 
nothing of the speculative difficulties torturing him. 
He does not say that his speaking would have been 
sin against God. It would not have been so, if, in 
speaking, he had longed for confirmation of his waver- 
ing faith. But whatever the motive of his words, 
they might have shaken some lowly believers. There- 
fore he resolved on silence. Like all wise and devout 
men, he swallowed his own smoke, and let the process 
of doubting go on to its end of certainty, one way or 
another, before he spoke. This psalm, in which he tells 
how he overcame them, is his first acknowledgment 
that he had had these temptations to cast away his 
confidence. Fermentation should be done in the dark. 
When the process is finished, and the product is clear, 
it is fit to be produced and drank. Certitudes are meant 
to be uttered ; doubts are meant to be struggled with. 
The psalmist has set an excu.ple which many men 
need to ponder to-day. It is easy, and it is also cruel, 
to raise questions which the proposer is not ready to 

Silent brooding over his problem did not bring light, 
as ver. i6 tells us. The more he thought over it, the 
more insoluble did it seem to him. There are chambers 

Ixxiii.] THE PSALMS 343 

which the key of thinking will not open. Unwelcome 
as the lesson is, we have to learn that every lock will 
not yield to even prolonged and strenuous investigation. 
The lamp of the Understanding throws its beams far, 
but there are depths of darkness too deep and dark 
for them ; and they are wisest who know its limits 
and do not try to use it in regions where it is useless. 

But faith finds a path where speculation discerns none. 
The psalmist " went into the sanctuary (literally, sanc- 
tuaries) of God," and there light streamed in on him, 
in which he saw light. Not mere entrance into the 
place of worship, but closer approach to the God who 
dwelt there, cleared away the mists. Communion with 
God solves many problems which thinking leaves un- 
resolved. The eye which has gazed on God is purged 
for much vision besides. The disproportion between 
the deserts and fortunes of good and bad men assumes 
an altogether different aspect when contemplated in 
the light of present communion with Him, which brings 
a blessedness that makes earthly prosperity seem dross, 
and earthly burdens seem feathers. Such communion, 
in its seclusion from worldly agitations, enables a man 
to take calmer, saner views of life, and in its enduring 
blessedness reveals more clearly the transiency of the 
creatural good which deceives men with the figment of 
its permanence. The lesson which the psalmist learned 
in the solemn stillness of the sanctuary was the end 
of ungodly prosperity. That changes the aspect of the 
envied position of the prosperous sinner, for his very 
prosperity is seen to contribute to his downfall, as 
well as to make that downfall more tragic by contrast. 
His sure footing, exempt as he seemed from the 
troubles and ills that flesh is heir to, was really on 
a treacherous slope, Uke smooth sheets of rock on a 


mountain-side. To stand on them is to slide down to 
hideous ruin. 

The theme of the end of the prosperous sinners is 
continued in the next group (vv. 19-22). In ver. 19 
the psalmist seems as if standing an amazed spectator 
of the crash, which tumbles into chaos the solid-seeming 
fabric of their insolent prosperity. An exclamation 
breaks from his lips as he looks. And then destruction 
is foretold for all such, under the solemn and magnifi- 
cent image of ver. 20. God has seemed to sleep, 
lettmg evil run its course; but He " rouses Himself" — 
that is, comes forth in judicial acts — and as a dreamer 
remembers his dream, which seemed so real, and smiles 
at its imaginary terrors or joys, so He will " despise " 
them, as no more solid nor lasting than phantasms of the 
night. The end contemplated by the psalmist is not 
necessarily death, but any sudden overthrow, of which 
there are many in the experience of the godless. Life 
is full of such awakings of God, both in regard to 
individuals and nations, which, if a man duly regards, 
he will find the problem of the psalm less insoluble 
than at first it appears. But if there are lives which, 
being without goodness, are also without chastisement. 
Death comes at last to such as God's awaking, and a 
very awful dissipating of earthly prosperity into a 
shadowy nothing. 

The psalmist has no revelation here of future retri- 
bution. His vindication of God's justice is not based 
on that, but simply on the transiency of worldly 
prosperity, and on its dangerous character. It is " a 
slippery place," and it is sure to come to an end. It 
is obvious that there are many other considerations 
which have to be taken into account, in order to a 
complete solution of the problem of the psalm. But 

Ixxiii.] THE PSALMS 345 

the psalmist's solution goes far to lighten the painful 
perplexity of it ; and if we add his succeeding thoughts 
as to the elements of true blessedness, we have solution 
enough for peaceful acquiescence, if not for entire 
understanding. The psalmist's way of finding an 
answer is even more valuable than the answer which 
he found. They who dwell in the secret place of the 
Most High can look on the riddle of this painful world 
with equanimity, and be content to leave it half 

Vv. 21, 22, are generally taken as one sentence, 
and translated as by Delitzsch, ** If my heart should 
grow bitter ... I should be brutish," etc. ; or, as by 
Hupfeld, " When my heart grew bitter . . . then I was 
as a beast," etc. ; but they are better regarded as the 
psalmist's penitent explanation of his struggle. " Un- 
believing thoughts had fermented in his mind, and a 
pang of passionate discontent had pierced his inmost 
being. But the higher self blames the lower self for 
such folly " (Cheyne, in loc?). His recognition that his 
doubts had their source, not in defect in God's provi- 
dence, but in his own ignorance and hasty irritation, 
which took offence without cause, prepares him for the 
sweet, clear note of purely spiritual aspiration and 
fruition which follows in the next strophe. 

He had all but lost his hold of God ; but though 
his feet had almost gone astray, his hand had been 
grasped by God, and that strong hold had kept him 
from utterly falling. The pledge of continual com- 
munion with God is not our own vacillating, wayward 
hearts, but God's gentle, strong clasp, which will not 
let us go. Thus conscious of constant fellowship, and 
feeling thrillingly God's touch in his inmost spirit, the 
psalmist rises to a height of joyous assurance, far above 


doubts and perplexities caused by the unequal dis- 
tribution of earth's trivial good. For him, all life will 
be illumined by God's counsel, which will guide him 
as a shepherd leads his sheep, and which he will obey 
as a sheep follows his shepherd. How small the 
delights of the prosperous men seem now ! And can 
there be an end to that sweet alliance, such as smites 
earthly good? There are blessings which bear in 
themselves assurance of their own undyingness ; and 
this psalmist, who had nothing to say of the future 
retribution falling on the sinner whose delights were 
confined to earth, feels that death cannot put a period 
to a union so blessed and spiritual as was his with 
God. To him, " afterwards " was irradiated with light 
from present blessedness ; and a solemnly joyful con- 
viction springs in his soul, which he casts into words 
that glance at the story of Enoch's translation, from 
which "take" is quoted (cf. Psalm xlix. i6). Whether 
we translate " with glory " or '* to glory," there can be 
no question that the psalmist is looking beyond life 
on earth to dwelling with God in glory. We have, 
in this utterance, the expression of the conviction, in- 
separable from any true, deep communion with God, 
that such communion can never be at the mercy of 
Death. The real proof of a life beyond the grave 
is the resurrection of Jesus ; and the pledge of it is 
present enjoyment of fellowship with God. 

Such thoughts lift the psalmist to a height from 
which earth's troubles show small, and as they 
diminish, the perplexity arising from their distribution 
diminishes in proportion. They fade away altogether, 
when he feels how rich he is in possessing God. Surely 
the very summit of devotional rapture is reached in 
the immortal words which follow 1 Heaven without 

fxxiii.] THE PSALMS 347 

God were a waste to this man. With God, he needs 
not nor desires anything on earth. If the impossible 
should be actual, and heart as well as flesh should fail, 
his naked self would be clothed and rich, steadfast and 
secure, as long as he had God; and he is so closely 
knit to God, that he knows that he will not lose Him 
though he dies, but have Him for his very own for ever. 
What care need he have how earth's vain goods come 
and go ? Whatever outward calamities or poverty may 
be his lot, there is no riddle in that Divine government 
which thus enriches the devout heart ; and the richest 
ungodly man is poor, because he shuts himself out 
from the one all-sufficient and enduring wealth. 

A final pair of verses, answering to the introductory 
pair, gathers up the double truth, which the psalmist 
has learned to grasp more firmly by occasion of his 
doubts. To be absent from God is to perish. Distance 
from Him is separation from life. Drawing near to 
Him is the only good ; and the psalmist has deliberately 
chosen it as his good, let worldly prosperity come or 
go as it list, or, rather, as God shall choose. By the 
effort of his own volition he has made God his refuge, 
and, safe in Him, he can bear the sorrows of the godly, 
and look unen vying on the fleeting prosperity of sinners, 
while, with insight drawn from communion, he can 
recount with faith and praise all God's works, and 
find in none of them a stumbling-block, nor fail to find 
in any of them material for a song of thankfulness. 


1 Why, O God, hast Thou cast us off for ever? 

[Why] smokes Thine anger against the flock of Thy pasture? 

2 Remember Thy congregation [which] Thou didst acquire of old, 
Didst redeem [to be] the tribe of Thine inheritance, 

Mount Zion, on which Thou hast dwelt. 

3 Lift up Thy steps to the everlasting ruins. 

The enemy has marred everything in the sanctuary. 

4 Thine adversaries roared in the midst of the place where Thou 

dost meet [us], 
They set up their signs as signs. 

5 They seem like one who heaves on high 
Axes against a thicket of trees. 

6 And now — its carved work altogether 
With hatchet and hammers they break down. 

7 They have set on fire Thy sanctuary, 

[Rasing it] to the ground, they have profaned the dwelling-place 
of Thy name. 

8 They have said in their heart, Let us crush them altogether. 
They have burned all meeting-places of God in the land. 

9 Our signs we see not, 

There is no prophet any more, 

And there is no one who knows how long. 

10 How long, O God, shall the adversary reproach? 
Shall the enemy despise Fhy name for ever? 

11 Why dost Thou draw back Thy hand, even Thy right hand ? 
From the midst of Thy bosom [pluck it and] consume [them]. 

12 Yet God is my king from of old. 

Working salvations in the midst of the earth. 

13 Thou, Thou didst divide the sea by Thy strength, 
Didst break the heads of monsters on the waters. 

Ixxiv.] THE PSALMS 349 

14 Thou, Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan, 

That Thou mightest give him [to be] meat for a people — the 
desert beasts. 

15 Thou, Thou didst cleave [a way for] fountain and torrent; 
Thou, Thou didst dry up perennial streams. 

16 Thine is day, Thine also is night ; 
Thou, Thou didst establish light and sun. 

17 Thou, Thou didst set all the bounds of the earth; 
Summer and winter, Thou, Thou didst form them. 

18 Remember this — the enemy reviles Jehovah, 
And a foolish people despises Thy name. 

19 Give not up to the company of greed Thy turtle dove^ 
The company of Thine afflicted forget not for ever. 

20 Look upon the covenant, 

For the dark places of the land are full of habitations of violence. 

21 Let not the oppressed turn back ashamed. 
Let the afflicted and needy praise Thy name. 

22 Rise, O God, plead Thine own cause. 

Remember Thy reproach from the foolish all the day, 

23 Forget not the voice of Thine adversaries. 

The tumult of them which rise against Thee goes up continually. 

TWO periods only correspond to the circumstances 
described in this psalm and its companion (Ixxix.) 
— namely, the Chaldean invasion and sack of Jerusalem, 
and the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes. The 
general situation outlined in the psalm fits either of 
these ; but, of its details, some are more applicable to 
the former and others to the later period. The later 
date is strongly supported by such complaints as those 
of the cessation of prophecy (ver. 9), the flaunting of 
the invaders' signs in the sanctuary (ver. 4), and the 
destruction by fire of all the *' meeting-places of God in 
the land " (ver. 8). On the other hand, the earlier date 
better fits other features of the psalm — since Antiochus 
did not destroy or burn, but simply profaned the Temple, 
though he did, indeed, set fire to the gates and porch, 
but to these only. It would appear that, on either 
hypothesis, something must be allowed for poetical 


colouring. Calvin, whom Cheyne follows in this, 
accounts for the introduction of the burning of the 
Temple into a psalm referring to the desolation wrought 
by Antiochus, by the supposition that the psalmist 
speaks in the name of the ^* faithful, who, looking on 
the horrid devastation of the Temple, and being warned 
by so sad a sight, carried back their thoughts to that 
conflagration by which it had been destroyed by the 
Chaldeans, and wove the two calamities together into 
one." It is less difficult to pare down the statement 
as to the burning of the Temple so as to suit the 
later date, than that as to the silence of prophecy and 
the other characteristics mentioned, so as to fit the 
earlier. The question is still further complicated by 
the similarities between the two psalms and Jeremiah 
(compare ver. 4 with Lam. ii. 7, and ver. 9 with 
Lam. ii. 9). The prophet's well-known fondness 
for quotations gives probability, other things being 
equal, to the supposition that he is quoting the psalm, 
which would, in that case, be older than Lamentations. 
But this inference scarcely holds good, if there are 
other grounds on which the later date of the psalm is 
established. It would be very natural in a singer of 
the Maccabean period to go back to the prophet whose 
sad strains had risen at another black hour. On the 
whole, the balance is in favour of the later date. 

The psalm begins with a complaining cry to God 
(vv. 1-3), which passes into a piteous detail of the 
nation's misery (vv. 4-9), whence it rises into petition 
(vv. 10, 11), stays trembling faith by gazing upon His 
past deeds of help and the wonders of His creative 
power (vv. 12-17), ^^^ closes with beseeching God to 
vindicate the honour of His own name by the deliver- 
ance of His people (vv. 18-23), 

Ixxiv.] THE PSALMS 351 

The main emphasis of the prayer in w. 1-3 lies on 
the pleas which it presents, drawn from Israel's relation 
to God. The characteristic Asaphic name " Thy flock " 
stands in ver. I, and appeals to the Shepherd, both 
on the ground of His tenderness and of His honour as 
involved in the security of the sheep. A similar appeal 
lies in the two words ** acquire" and "redeem," in both 
of which the deliverance from Egypt is referred to, — 
the former expression suggesting the price at which the 
acquisition was made, as well as the obligations of 
ownership ; and the latter, the office of the Goel, the 
Kinsman-Redeemer, on whom devolved the duty of 
obtaining satisfaction for blood. The double designa- 
tions of Israel as " Thy congregation " and as " the 
tribe of Thine inheritance" probably point to the 
religious and civil aspects of the national life. The 
strongest plea is put last — namely, God's dwelling on 
Zion. For all these reasons, the psalmist asks and 
expects Him to come with swift footsteps to the desola- 
tions, which have endured so long that the impatience 
of despair blends with the cry for help, and calls them 
"everlasting," even while it prays that they may be 
built up again. The fact that the enemy of God and of 
His flock has marred everything in the sanctuary is 
enough, the psalmist thinks, to move God to action. 

The same thought, that the nation's calamities are 
really dishonouring to God, and therefore worthy of 
His intervention, colours the whole of the description 
of these in w. 4-9. The invaders are " Thine adver- 
saries." It is " in the place where Thou didst meet us " 
that their bestial noises, like those of lions over their 
prey, echo. It is " Thy sanctuary " which they have 
set on fire, " the dwelling-place of Thy name " which 
they have profaned. It is " Thy meeting-places " which 


they have burned throughout the land. Only at the 
end of the sad catalogue is the misery of the people 
touched on, and that, not so much as inflicted by human 
foes, as by the withdrawal of God's Spirit. This is, 
in fact, the dominant thought of the whole psalm. It 
says very little about the sufferings resulting from the 
success of the enemy, but constantly recurs to the 
insult to God, and the reproach adhering to His name 
therefrom. The essence of it all is in the concluding 
prayer, " Plead Thine own cause " (ver. 22). 

The vivid description of devastation in these verses 
presents some difficulties in detail, which call for brief 
treatment. The ** signs" in ver. 4^ may be taken as 
military, such as banners or the like ; but it is more in 
accordance with the usage of the word to suppose them 
to be religious emblems, or possibly idols, such as 
Antiochus thrust upon the Jews. In vv. 5 and 6 a 
change of tense represents the action described in them, 
as if in progress at the moment before the singer's 
eyes. '* They seem " is literally " He is known " (or 
makes himself known\ which may refer to the invaders, 
the change from plural to singular being frequent in 
Hebrew; or it may be taken impersonally, = " It seems." 
In either case it introduces a comparison between the 
hacking and hewing by the spoilers in the Temple, and 
the work of a woodman swinging on high his axe in 
the forest. ''And now" seems to indicate the next 
step in the scene, which the psalmist picturesquely 
conceives as passing before his horror-stricken sight. 
The end of that ill-omened activity is that at last it 
succeeds in shattering the carved work, which, in the 
absence of statues, was the chief artistic glory of the 
Temple. All is hewed down, as if it were no more 
than so much growing timber. With ver. 7 the tenses 

Ixxiv.] THE PSALMS 353 

change to the calmer tone of historical narration. The 
plundered Temple is set on fire — a point which, as has 
been noticed above, is completely applicable only to the 
Chaldean invasion. Similarly, the next clause, '* they 
have profaned the dwelling-place of Thy name to the 
ground,'' does not apply in literality to the action of 
Antiochus, who did indeed desecrate, but did not destroy, 
the Temple. The expression is a pregnant one, and 
calls for some such supplement as is given above, 
which, however, dilutes its vigour while it elucidates 
its meaning. In ver. 8 the word "let us crush them" 
has been erroneously taken as a noun, and rendered 
*' their brood," a verb like " we will root out " being- 
supplied. So the LXX. and some of the old versions, 
followed by Hitzig and Baethgen. But, as Delitzsch 
well asks, — Why are only the children to be rooted 
out ? and why should the object of the action be ex- 
pressed, and not rather the action, of which the object 
would be self-evident ? The '* meeting-places of God 
in the land" cannot be old sanctuaries, nor the high 
places, which were Israel's sin; for no psalmist could 
have adduced the destruction of these as a reason for 
God's intervention. They can only be the synagogues. 
The expression is a strong argument for the later date 
of the psalm. Equally strong is the lament in ver. 9 
over the removal of the " signs " — />., as in ver. 4, the 
emblems of religion, or the sacrifices and festivals, sup- 
pressed by Antiochus, which were the tokens of the 
covenant between God and Israel. The silence of 
prophecy cannot be alleged of the Chaldean period with- 
out some straining of facts and of the words here ; nor 
is it true that then there was universal ignorance of the 
duration of the calamity, for Jeremiah had foretold it. 
Vv. 10 and li are the kernel of the psalm, the 

VOL. II. 23 


rest of which is folded round them symmetrically. 
Starting from this centre and working outwards, we 
note that it is preceded by six verses dilating on the 
profanations of the name of God, and followed by six 
setting forth the glories of that name in the past. The 
connection of these two portions of the psalm is obvious. 
They are, as it were, the inner shell round the kernel. 
The outer shell is the prayer in three verses which begins 
the psalm, and that in six verses which closes it. Ver. lO 
takes up the despairing " How long " from the end 
of the preceding portion, and turns it into a question 
to God. It is best to ask Him, when ignorance pains 
us. But the interrogation does not so much beg for 
enlightenment as to the duration of the calamity as for its 
abbreviation. It breathes not precisely impatience, but 
longing that a state of things so dislionouring to God 
should end. That aspect, and not personal suffering, is 
prominent in the verse. It is " Thy name " which is 
insulted by the adversaries' actions, and laid open to 
their contempt, as the name of a Deity powerless to 
protect His worshippers. Their action " reproaches," 
and His inaction lets them " despise," His name. The 
psalmist cannot endure that this condition should drag 
on indefinitely, as if " for ever," and his prayer-question 
" How long ? " is next exchanged for another similar 
blending of petition and inquiry, " Why dost Thou 
draw back Thy hand ? " Both are immediately trans- 
lated into that petition which they both really mean. 
*' From the midst of Thy bosom consume," is a 
pregnant phrase, like that in ver. 7 b^ and has to be 
completed as above, though, possibly, the verb stands 
absolutely as equivalent to " make an end " — i,e., of such 
a state of things. 

The psalmist's petition is next grounded on the 

Ixxiv.] THE PSALMS 355 

revelation of God's name in Israel's past, and in 
creative acts of power. These at once encourage him 
to expect that God will pluck His hand out from the 
folds of His robe, where it lies inactive, and appeal 
to God to be what He has been of old, and to rescue 
the name which He has thus magnified from insult. 
There is singular solemnity in the emphatic reitera- 
tion of "Thou" in these verses. The Hebrew does 
not usually express the pronominal nominative to a 
verb, unless special attention is to be called to it ; but 
in these verses it does so uniformly, with one exception, 
and the sevenfold repetition of the word brings forcibly 
into viiw the Divine personality and former deeds 
which pledge God to act now. Remembrance of past 
wonders made present misery more bitter, but it also 
fanned into a flame the spark of confidence that the 
future would be like the past. One characteristic of 
the Asaph psalms is wistful retrospect, which is some- 
times the basis of rebuke, and sometimes of hope, and 
sometimes of deepened sorrow, but is here in part 
appeal to God and in part consolation. The familiar 
instances of His working drawn from the Exodus 
history appear in the psalm. First comes the dividing 
of the Red Sea, which is regarded chiefly as occasioning 
the destruction of the Egyptians, who are symbolised by 
the *' sea-monsters" and by "leviathan " (the crocodile). 
Their fate is an omen of what the psalmist hopes may 
befall the oppressors of his own day. There is great 
poetic force in the representation that the strong hand, 
which by a stroke parted the waters, crushed by the 
same blow the heads of the foul creatures who " floated 
many a rood" on them. And what an end for the 
pomp of Pharaoh and his host, to provide a meal for 
jackals and the other beasts of the desert, who tear the 


corpses strewing the barren shore I The meaning is 
completely misapprehended when **the people inhabiting 
the wilderness " is taken to be wild desert tribes. The 
expression refers to animals, and its use as designating 
them has parallels (as Prov. xxx. 25, 26). 

In ver. 1 5 another pregnant expression occurs, which 
is best filled out as above, the reference being to 
cleaving the rock for the flow of water, with which is 
contrasted in b the drying up of the Jordan. Thus 
the whole of the Exodus period is covered. It is 
noteworthy that the psalmist adduces only wonders 
wrought on waters, being possibly guided in his 
selection by the familiar poetic use of floods and seas 
as emblems of hostile power and unbridled insolence. 
From the wonders of history he passes to those of crea- 
tion, and chiefly of that might by which times alternate 
and each constituent of the Kosmos has its appointed 
limits. Day and night, summer and winter, recur by 
God's continual operation. Is there to be no dawning 
for Israel's night of weeping, and no summer making 
glad the winter of its discontent ? " Thou didst set all 
the bounds of the earth," — wilt Thou not bid back this 
surging ocean which has transgressed its limits and 
filled the breadth of Thy land ? All the lights in the 
sky, and chiefly the greatest of them, Thou didst 
establish, — surely Thou wilt end this eclipse in which 
Thy people grope. 

Thus the psalmist lifts himself to the height of 
confident though humble prayer, with which the psalm 
closes, recurring to the opening tones. Its centre is, as 
we have seen, a double remonstrance — " How long ? " 
and ** Why ? " The encircling circumference is earnest 
supplication, of which the keynote is ** Remember " (vv 
2 and 18). 

Ixxiv.] THE PSALMS 357 

The gist of this closing prayer is the same appeal 
to God to defend His own honour, which we have found 
in the former verses. It is put in various forms here. 
Twice (vv. 18 and 22) God is besought to remember 
the reproach and contumely heaped on His name, and 
apparently warranted by His inaction. The claim 
of Israel for deliverance is based in ver. 19 upon its 
being " Thy turtle dove," which therefore cannot be 
abandoned without sullying Thy fame. The psalmist 
spreads the '^covenant" before God, as reminding Him of 
His obligations under it. He asks that such deeds may 
be done as will give occasion to the afflicted and needy 
to "praise Thy name," which is being besmirched 
by their calamities. Finally, in wonderfully bold words, 
he calls on God to take up what is, after all, " His 
own " quarrel, and, if the cry of the afQicted does not 
move Him, to hsten to the loud voices of those who 
blaspheme Him all the day. Reverent earnestness 
of supplication sometimes sounds like irreverence ; but, 
'*when the heart's deeps boil in earnest," God under- 
stands the meaning of what sounds strange, and recog- 
nises the profound trust in His faithfulness and love 
which underlies bold words. 

The precise rendering of ver. 19 is very doubtful. 
The word rendered above by '* company " may mean 
life or a living creature^ or, collectively, a company of 
such. It has been taken in all these meanings here, 
and sometimes in one of them in the first clause, and 
in another in the second, as most recently by Baethgen, 
who renders ** Abandon not to the beast " in a^ and 
" The life of thine afflicted " in b. But it must have 
the same meaning in both clauses, and the form of the 
word shows that it must be construed in both with 
a following " of." If so, the rendering adopted above 


is best, though it involves taking the word rendered 
'' greed " (lit., soul) in a somewhat doubtful sense. This 
rendering is adopted in the R.V. (margin), and is, on 
the whole, the least difficul t, and yields a probable sense. 
Dehtzsch recognises the necessity for giving the am- 
biguous word the same meaning in both clauses, and 
takes that meaning to be " creature," which suits well 
enough in a, but gives a very harsh meaning to b, 
" Forget not Thy poor animals for ever " is surely an 
impossible rendering. Other attempts have been made 
to turn the difficulty by textual alteration. Hupfeld 
would transpose two words in a, and so gets ** Give not 
up to rage the life of Thy dove." Cheyne corrects the 
difficult word into " to the sword," and Graetz follows 
Dyserinck in preferring " to death," or Krochmal, who 
reads *^ to destruction." If the existing text is retained, 
probably the rendering adopted above is best 


1 We give thanks to Thee, O God, we give thanks ; 

And [that] Thy name is near, Thy wondrous works declare 

2 " When I seize the set time, 
I, I judge [in] equity. 

3 Dissolved [in fear] are earth and its inhabitants I 
I, I set firm its pillars. Selah. 

4 I say to the fools, Be not foolish : 

And to the wicked. Lift not up the horn 8 

5 Lift not up your horn on high ; 
Speak not with stiff neck." 

6 For not from east, nor from west. 

And not from the wilderness is lifting upt 

7 For God is judge : 

This one He abases, and that one He lifts up, 

8 For a cup is in the hands of Jehovah, 

And it foams with wine ; it is full of mixture, 
And He pours out from it : 

Yea, its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth gulp down and 

9 And as for me, I will declare [it] for ever, 
I will harp to the God of Jacob. 

lO And all the horns of the wicked will I cut offs 
Exalted shall be the horns of the righteous. 

THIS psalm deals with the general thought of 
God's judgment in history, especially on heathen 
nations. It has no clear marks of connection with any 
particular instance of that judgment. The prevalent 
opinion has been that it refers, like the next psalm, 
to the destruction of Sennacherib's army. There are 
in it slight resemblances to Psalm xlvi., and to Isaiah's 



prophecies regarding that event, which support the 
conjecture. Cheyne seems to waver, as on page 148 
)f '* Orig. of Psalt." he speaks of ^' the two Maccabean 
psalms, Ixxiv. and Ixxv.," and on page 166 concludes 
that they " may be Maccabean, . . . but we cannot claim 
for this view the highest degree of probability, especially 
as neither psalm refers to any warlike deeds of Israelites. 
It is safer, I think, to . . . assign them at the earliest 
to one of the happier parts of the Persian age." It is 
apparently still safer to refrain from assigning them 
to any precise period. 

The kernel of the psalm is a majestic Divine utterance, 
proclaiming God's judgment as at hand. The limits 
of that Divine word are doubtful, but it is best taken 
as occupying two pairs of verses (2-5). It is preceded 
by one verse of praise, and followed by three (6-8) 
of warning spoken by the psalmist, and by two (9, 10) 
in which he again praises God the Judge, and stands 
forth as an instrument of His judicial acts. 

In ver. i, which is as a prelude to the great Voice from 
heaven, we hear the nation giving thanks beforehand 
for the judgment which is about to fall. The second 
part of the verse is doubtful. It may be taken thus : 
"And Thy name is near; they (i.e., men) declare Thy 
wondrous works." So Delitzsch, who comments : The 
Church '^ welcomes the future acts of God with fervent 
thanks, and all they that belong to it declare beforehand 
God's wondrous works." Several modern scholars, 
among whom are Gratz, Baethgen, and Cheyne, adopt 
a textual alteration which gives the reading, " They who 
call upon Thy name declare," etc. But the rendering 
of the A. v., which is also that of Hupfeld and Perowne, 
gives a good meaning. All God's deeds in history 
proclaim that He is ever a< hand to help. His name 

Ixxv.] THE PSALMS 361 

is His character as revealed by His self-manifestation ; 
and this is the glad thanks-evoking lesson, taught by 
all the past and by the judicial act of which the psalm 
is the precursor — that He is near to deliver His people. 
As Deut. iv. 7 has it, " What nation is there that hath 
God so near unto them ? " 

The Divine voice breaks in with majestic abruptness, 
as in Psalm xlvi. 10. It proclaims impending judg- 
ment, which will restore society, dissolving in dread or 
moral corruption, and will abase insolent wickedness, 
which is therefore exhorted to submission. In ver. 2 
two great principles are declared — one in regard to the 
time and the other in regard to the animating spirit 
of God's judgment. Literally, the first words of the 
verse run, " When I lay hold of the appointed time." 
The thought is that He has His own appointed time 
at which His power will flash forth into act, and that 
till that moment arrives evil is permitted to run its 
course, and insolent men to play their *' fantastic tricks" 
before an apparently indifferent or unobserving God. 
His servants are tempted to think that He delays too 
long ; His enemies, that He will never break His 
silence. But the slow hand traverses the dial in time, 
and at last the hour strikes and the crash comes 
punctually at the moment. The purposes of delay are 
presented in Scripture as twofold : on the one hand, 
** that the long-suffering of God may lead to repentance " ; 
and on the other, that evil may work itself out and 
show its true character. To learn the lesson that, 
" when the set time is come," judgment will fall, would 
save the oppressed from impatience and despondency 
and the oppressor from dreams of impunity. It is 
a law fruitful for the interpretation of the world's 
history. The other fundamental truth in this verse is 


that the principle of God's judgment is equity, rigid 
adherence to justice, so that every act of man's shall 
receive accurately **its just recompense of reward." 
The " I " of ver. 2 ^ is emphatic. It brings to view 
the lofty personality of the Judge, and asserts the 
operation of a Divine hand in human affairs, while it 
also lays the basis for the assurance that, the judgment 
being His, and He being what He is, it must be 
*' according to truth." 

Such a " set time " has arrived, as ver. 3 proceeds to 
declare. Oppression and corruption have gone so far 
that " the earth and its inhabitants " are as if ^' dissolved." 
All things are rushing to ruin. The psalmist does not 
distinguish between the physical and the moral here. 
His figure is employed in reference to both orders, 
which he regards as indissolubly connected. Possibly 
he is echoing Psalm xlvi. 6, " The earth melted," though 
there the ''melting" is an expression for dread occa- 
sioned by God's voice, and here rather refers to the 
results of ** the proud man's wrong." At such a supreme 
moment, when the solid framework of society and 01 
the world itself seems to be on the point of dissolution, 
the mighty Divine Personality intervenes ; that strong 
hand is thrust forth to grasp the tottering pillars and 
stay their fall; or, in plain words, God Himself then 
intervenes to re-establish the moral order of society, 
and thus to save the sufferers. (Comp. Hannah's song 
in I Sam. ii. 8.) That intervention has necessarily two 
aspects, being on the one hand restorative, and on the 
other punitive. Therefore in vv. 4 and 5 follow Divine 
warnings to the " fools " and " wicked," whose insolent 
boasting and tyranny have provoked it. The word 
rendered '' fools " seems to include the idea of boastful- 
ness as well as folly in the Biblical sense of that word, 

Ixxv.] THE PSALMS 363 

which points to moral rather than to merely intellectual 
aberration. "Lifting up the horn" is a symbol of 
arrogance. According to the accents, the word rendered 
" stiff" is not to be taken as attached to ** neck," but as 
the object of the verb ** speak," the resulting translation 
being, "Speak not arrogance with a [stretched out] 
neck " ; and thus Delitzsch would render. But it is 
more natural to take the word in its usual construction 
as an epithet of "neck," expressive of superciliously 
holding a high head. Cheyne follows Baethgen in alter- 
ing the text so as to read " rock " for " neck " — a slight 
change which is supported by the LXX. rendering 
(" Speak not unrighteousness against God") — and 
renders "nor speak arrogantly of the rock." Like the 
other advocates of a Maccabean date, he finds here 
a reference to the mad blasphemies of Antiochus 
Epiphanes ; but the words would suit Rabshakeh's 
railings quite as well. 

The exact point where the Divine oracle passes into 
the psalmist's own words is doubtful. Ver. 7 is evi- 
dently his ; and that verse is so closely connected 
with ver. 6 that it is best to make the break at the 
end of ver. 5, and to suppose that what follows is the 
singer's application of the truths which he has heard. 
Two renderings of ver. 6 b are possible, which, though 
very different in English, turn on the minute difference 
in the Hebrew of one vowel sign. The same letters 
spell the Hebrew word meaning mountains and that 
meaning lifting up. With one punctuation of the pre- 
ceding word " wilderness," we must translate " from the 
wilderness of mountains " ; with another, the two words 
are less closely connected, and we must render, "from 
the wilderness is lifting up." If the former rendering 
is adopted, the verse is incomplete, and some phrase 


like " help comes " must be supplied, as Delitzsch 
suggests. But "lifting up" occurs so often in this 
psalm, that it is more natural to take the word in that 
meaning here, especially as the next verse ends with it, 
in a different tense, and thus makes a sort of rhyme 
with this verse. " The wilderness of mountains, " too, 
is a singular designation, either for the Sinaitic penin- 
sula or for Egypt, or for the wilderness of Judah, 
which have all been suggested as intended here. " The 
wilderness" stands for the south, and thus three 
cardinal points are named. Why is the north omitted ? 
If " lifting up " means deliverance, the omission may be 
due to the fact that Assyria (from which the danger 
came, if we adopt the usual view of the occasion of the 
psalm) lay to the north. But the meaning in the rest 
of the psalm is not deliverance^ and the psalmist is 
addressing the " foolish boasters " here ; and that con- 
sideration takes away the force of such an explanation 
of the omission. Probably no significance attaches to 
it. The general idea is simply that *' lifting up " does 
not come from any quarter of earth, but, as the next 
verse goes on to say, solely from God. How absurd, 
then, is the self-sufficient loftiness of godless men 1 
How vain to look along the low levels of earth, when 
all true elevation and dignity come from God I The 
very purpose of His judicial energy is to abase the lofty 
and raise the low. His hand lifts up, and there is no 
secure or lasting elevation but that which He effects. 
His hand casts down, and that which attracts His 
lightnings is *' the haughtiness of man." The outburst 
of His judgment works like a volcanic eruption, which 
flings up elevations in valleys and shatters lofty 
peaks. The features of the country are changed after 
it, and the world looks new. The metaphor of ver. 8, 

Ixxv.] THE PSALMS 365 

in which judgment is represented as a cup of foaming 
wine, which God puts to the Hps of the nations, receives 
great expansion in the prophets, especially in Jeremiah, 
and recurs in the Apocalypse. There is a grim contrast 
between the images of festivity and hospitality called 
up by the picture of a host presenting the wine cup to 
his guests, and the stern compulsion which makes the 
''wicked" gulp down the nauseous draught held by 
God to their reluctant lips. The utmost extremity of 
punitive inflictions, unflinchingly inflicted, is suggested 
by the terrible imagery. And the judgment is to be 
world-wide ; for '* all the wicked of the earth " are to 
drink, and that to the dregs. 

And how does the prospect affect the psalmist ? It 
moves him, first, to solemn praise — not only because 
God has proved Himself by these terrible things in 
righteousness to be the God of His people, but also 
because He has thereby manifested His own character 
as righteous and hating evil. It is no selfish nor cruel 
joy which stirs in devout hearts, when God comes forth 
in history and smites oppressing insolence. It is but 
a spurious benevolence which affects to recoil from the 
conception of a God who judges and, when needful, 
smites. This psalmist not only praised, but in his 
degree vowed to imitate. 

The last verse is best understood as his declaration 
of his own purpose, though some commentators have 
proposed to transfer it to the earlier part of the psalm, 
regarding it as part of the Divine oracle. But it is in 
its right place where it stands. God's servants are 
His instruments in carrying out His judgments ; and 
there is a very real sense in which all of them should 
seek to fight against dominant evil and to cripple the 
power of tyrannous godlessness. 


! Known in Judah is God, 
In Israel is His name great. 

2 And in Salem was His tent [pitched], 
And His dwelling in Zion. 

3 There He shivered the lightnings of the bow, 
Shield and sword and battle. Selah. 

4 Effulgent art Thou [and] glorious 

From the mountains of prey [everlasting mountains ?]. 

5 Spoiled are the stout of heart, they slumber [into] their sleep, 
And none of the men of might have found their hands. 

6 At Thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, 

Both chariot and horse are sunk in deep sleep. 

7 Thou ! dread art Thou, 

And who can stand before Thee, in the time of Thine anger ? 

8 From heaven didst Thou make judgment heard, 
Earth feared and was stilled, 

9 At the rising of God for judgment 

To save all the afflicted of the earth. Selah. 

10 For the wrath of man shall praise Thee, 

[With] the residue of wraths Thou girdest Thyself. 

1 1 Vow and pay to Jehovah your God, 

Let all around Him bring presents to the Terrible One. 

12 He cuts down the [lofty] spirit of princes, 
A dread to the kings of the earth. 

IN contents and tone this psalm is connected with 
Psalms xlvi. and xlviii. No known event corre- 
sponds so closely with its allusions as the destruction 
of Sennacherib's army, to v^fhich the LXX. in its super- 
scriptioii refers it. The singer is absorbed in the one 


Ixxvi.] THE PSALMS 3^7 

tremendous judgment which had delivered the dwelling- 
place of Jehovah. His song has but one theme — God's 
forth-flashing of judgment on Zion's foes. One note of 
thankfulness sounds at the close, but till then all is 
awe. The psalm is divided into four strophes, of three 
verses each. The former two describe the act ; the 
latter two deal with its results, in an awed world and 
thankful praise. 

The emphatic words in the first strophe are those 
which designate the scene of the Divine act. The glow 
of humble pride, of wonder and thankfulness, is percept- 
ible in the fourfold reiteration — ''in Judah, in Israel, 
in Salem, in Zion " ; all which names are gathered up 
in the eloquent " There " of ver. 3. The true point 
of view from which to regard God's acts is that they 
are His Self-revelation. The reason why Israel is the 
object of the acts which manifest His name is that there 
He has chosen to dwell. And, since He dwells there, 
the special act of judgment which the psalm celebrates 
was there performed. " The lightnings of the bow " 
picturesquely designate arrows, from their swift flight 
and deadly impact. (Compare Psalm xlvi. 9.) 

The second strophe (vv. 4-6) comes closer to the 
fact celebrated, and describes, with magnificent sweep, 
brevity, and vividness, the death sleep of the enemy. 
But, before it shows the silent corpses, it lifts one 
exclamation of reverence to the God who has thus 
manifested His power. The word rendered '' Effulgent " 
is doubtful, and by a slight transposition of letters 
becomes, as in ver. 7 which begins the next strophe, 
" dread." In ver. 4 b the rendering ** more excellent 
than," etc., yields a comparison which can scarcely be 
called worthy. It is little to say of God that He is 
more glorious than the enemies' '* mountains of prey," 


though Delitzsch tries to recommend this rendering, 
by supposing that God is represented as towering above 
" the Lebanon of the hostile army of peoples." The 
Hebrew idiom expresses comparison by the preposition 
from appended to the adjective in its simple form, and 
it is best here to take the construction as indicating 
point of departure rather than comparison. God comes 
forth as ** glorious," from the lofty heights where He 
sits supreme. But " mountains of prey " is a singular 
phrase, which can only be explained by the supposition 
that God is conceived of as a Conqueror, who has laid 
up His spoils in His inaccessible store-house on high. 
But the LXX. translates ** everlasting mountains," which 
fits the context well, and implies a text, which might 
easily be misinterpreted as meaning " prey," which 
misinterpretation may afterwards have crept into the 
body of the text. If this alteration is not adopted, the 
meaning will be as just stated. 

Ver. 5 gives some support to the existing text, by 
its representation of the stout-hearted foe as '' spoiled." 
They are robbed of their might, their weapons, and 
their life. How graphically the psalmist sets before 
the eyes of his readers the process of destruction from 
its beginning I He shows us the warriors falling asleep 
in the drowsiness of death. How feeble their '' might " 
now I One vain struggle, as in the throes of death, 
and the hands which shot the " lightnings of the bow " 
against Zion are stiff for evermore. One word from 
the sovereign lips of the God of Jacob, and all the noise 
of the camp is hushed, and we look out upon a field of 
the dead, lying in awful stillness, dreamlessly sleeping 
their long slumber. 

The third strophe passes from description of the de- 
struction of the enemy to paint its widespread results 

Ixxvi.] THE PSALMS 369 

in the manifestation to a hushed world of God's judg- 
ment. In it anger and love are wondrously blended ; 
and while no creature can bear the terrible blaze of 
His face, nor endure the weight of His onset *' in the 
time of His anger," the most awful manifestations 
thereof have a side of tenderness and an inner purpose 
of blessing. The core of judgment is mercy. It is 
worthy of God to smite the oppressor and to save 
the '* afflicted," who not only suffer, but trust. When 
He makes His judgments reverberate from on high, 
earth should keep an awed stillness, as nature does 
when thunder peals. When some gigantic and hoary 
iniquity crashes to its fall, there is a moment of awed 
silence after the hideous tumult. 

The last strophe is mainly a summons to praise God 
for His manifestation of delivering judgment. Ver. 10 is 
obscure. The first clause is intelligible enough. Since 
God magnifies His name by His treatment of opposing 
men, who set themselves against Him, their very 
foaming fury subserves His praise. That is a familiar 
thought with all the Scripture writers who meditate on 
God's dealings. But the second clause is hard. Whose 
" wraths " are spoken of in it ? God's or man's ? The 
change from the singular (** wrath of man ") to plural 
('* wraths ") in b makes it all but certain that God's 
fulness of ** wrath " is meant here. It is set over 
against the finite and puny '* wrath " of men, as an 
ocean might be contrasted with a shallow pond. If so, 
God's girding Himself with the residue of His own 
wrath will mean that, after every such forth-putting of 
it as the psalm has been hymning, there still remains 
an unexhausted store ready to flame out if need 
arise. It is a stern and terrible thought of God, but 
it is solemnly true. His loving-kindness out-measures 

VOL. II, 24 


man's, and so does His judicial judgment. All Divine 
attributes partake of Infinitude, and the stores of His 
punitive anger are not less deep than those of His 
gentle goodness. 

Therefore men are summoned to vow and pay their 
vows ; and while Israel is called to worship, the nations 
around, who have seen that field of the dead, are called 
to do homage and bring tribute to Him who, as it so 
solemnly shows, can cut off the breath of the highest, 
or can cut down their pride, as a grape-gatherer does 
the ripe cluster (for such is the allusion in the word 
^' cuts down "). The last clause of the psalm, which 
stands somewhat disconnected from the preceding, 
gathers up the lessons of the tremendous event which 
inspired it, when it sets Him forth as to be feared by 
the kings of the earth. 


1 [I would lift] my voice to God and cry ; 

[I would lift] my voice to God, that He may give ear to me. 

2 In the day of my straits I sought the Lord : 

My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing ; 
My soul refused to be comforted. 

3 [When] I remember God, I must sigh; 

[When] I muse, my spirit is covered [with gloom], Selah. 

4 Thou hast held open the guards of my eyes : 
I am buffeted, and cannot speak. 

5 I considered the days of old. 
The years of ancient times. 

6 I would remember my song in the night : 

In my heart I would muse, — and my spirit made anxious search. 

7 Will the Lord cast off for ever ? 

And will He continue no more to be favourable ? 

8 Is His loving-kindness ended for ever ? 
Has His promise failed for all generations? 

9 Has God forgotten to be gracious ? 

Or has He in anger drawn in His compassions ? Selah. 

lo Then I said, It is my sickness; 

[But I will remember] the years of the right hand of the Most 
Ill will celebrate the deeds of Jah ; 

For I will remember Thy wonders of old, 

12 And I will meditate on all Thy work, 
And will muse on Thy doings. 

13 O God, in holiness is Thy way: 
Who is a great God like God ? 

14 Thou, Thou art the God who doest wonders : 

Thou hast made known among the peoples Thy strength. 


15 Thou hast redeemed with Thine arm Thy people, 
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah, 

16 The waters saw Thee, O God ; 

The waters saw Thee, they writhed in pangs S 
Yea, the abysses trembled, 

17 The clouds were poured out [in] water; 
The skies gave [forth] a voice : 

Yea, Thine arrows went to and fro. 

18 The voice of Thy thunder was in [Thy] chariot wheel; 
Lightnings illumined the world : 

The earth trembled and shook. 

19 In the sea was Thy way, 

And Thy paths in great waters, 
And Thy footprints were not known, 

20 Thou leadest Thy people like sheep, 
By the hand of Moses and Aaron. 

THE occasion of the profound sadness of the first 
part of this psalm may be inferred from the 
thoughts which brighten it into hope in the second. 
These were the memories of past national deliverance. 
It is natural to suppose that present national disasters 
were the causes of the sorrow which enveloped the 
psalmist's spirit and suggested questions of despair, 
only saved from being blasphemous because they were 
so wistful. But it by no means follows that the singer 
is simply the personified nation. The piercing tone of 
individual grief is too clear, especially in the intro- 
ductory verses, to allow of that hypothesis. Rather, 
the psalmist has taken into his heart the troubles of 
his people. Public calamity has become personal pain. 
What dark epoch has left its marks in this psalm 
remains uncertain. If Delitzsch's contention that 
Habakkuk iii. is in part drawn from it were indubitably 
established, the attribution of the psalm to the times of 
Josiah would be plausible ; but there is, at least, room 
for doubt whetlier there has been borrowing, and if so, 

Ixxvii.] THE PSALMS 373 

which is original and which echo. The calamities of 
the Exile in their severity and duration would give 
reasonable ground for the psalmist's doubts whether 
God had not cast off His people for ever. No brief 
or partial eclipse of His favour would supply adequate 
occasion for these. 

The psalm falls into two parts, in the former of 
which (vv. 1-9) deepest gloom wraps the singer's spirit, 
while in the latter (vv. 10-20) the clouds break. Each 
of these parts falls into three strophes, usually of three 
verses ; but in the concluding strophe, consisting of five, 
Selah stands at the end of the first and third, and is 
not present at the end of the second, because it is more 
closely connected with the third than with the first. 
In like manner the first strophe of the second part 
(vv. 10-12) has no Selah, but the second has (vv. 13-15); 
the closing strophe (vv. 16-20) being thus parted off. 

The psalmist's agitation colours his language, which 
fluctuates in the first six verses between expressions of 
resolve or desire (vv. i, 3, 6) and simple statement of 
fact (vv. 2, 4, 5). He has prayed long and earnestly, 
and nothing has been laid in answer on his outstretched 
palm. Therefore his cry has died down into a sigh. 
He fain would lift his voice to God, but dark thoughts 
make him dumb for supplication, and eloquent only in 
self-pitying monologue. A man must have waded 
through like depths to understand this pathetic bewilder- 
ment of spirit. They who glide smoothly over a sunlit 
surface of sea little know the terrors of sinking, with 
choked lungs, into the abyss. A little experience will 
go further than much learning in penetrating the 
meaning of these moanings of lamed faith. They begin 
with an elliptical phrase, which, in its fragmentary 
character, reveals the psalmist's discomposure. *' My 


voice to God " evidently needs some such completion as 
is supplied above ; and the form of the following verb 
(" cry ") suggests that the supplied one should express 
wish or effort. The repetition of the phrase in i A 
strengthens the impression of agitation. The last 
words of that clause may be a petition, " give ear," but 
are probably better taken as above. The psalmist 
would fain cry to God, that he may be heard. He has 
cried, as he goes on to tell in calmer mood in ver. 2, 
and has apparently not been heard. He describes his 
unintermitted supplications by a strong metaphor. The 
word rendered ** stretched out " is literally poured out 
as water, and is applied to weeping eyes (Lam. iii. 49). 
The Targum substitutes eye for hand here, but that is 
commentary, not translation. The clause which we 
render ** without ceasing" is literally "and grew not 
stiff." That word, too, is used of tears, and derivatives 
from it are found in the passage just referred to in Lamen- 
tations (** intermission "), and in Lam. ii. 18 ("rest"). 
It carries on the metaphor of a stream, the flow of 
which is unchecked. The application of this metaphor 
to the hand is harsh, but the meaning is plain — that all 
night long the psalmist extended his hand in the attitude 
of prayer, as if open to receive God's gift. His voice 
" rose like a fountain night and day " ; but brought no 
comfort to his soul ; and he bewails himself, in the 
words which tell of Jacob's despair when he heard that 
Joseph was dead. So rooted and inconsolable does he 
think his sorrows. The thought of God has changed 
its nature, as if the sun were to become a source of 
darkness. When he looks up, he can only sigh ; when 
he looks within, his spirit is clothed or veiled — />., 
wrapped in melancholy. 

In the next strophe of three verses (vv. 4-6) the 

Ixxvii.] THE PSALMS 375 

psalmist plunges yet deeper into gloom, and unfolds 
more clearly its occasion. Sorrow, like a beast of prey, 
devours at night ; and every sad heart knows how eye- 
lids, however wearied, refuse to close upon as wearied 
eyes, which gaze wide opened into the blackness and 
see dreadful things there. This man felt as if God's 
finger was pushing up his lids and forcing him to stare 
out into the night. Buffeted, as if laid on an anvil and 
battered with the shocks of doom, he cannot speak ; he 
can only moan, as he is doing. Prayer seems to be 
impossible. But to say, *' I cannot pray ; would that I 
could 1 " is surely prayer, which will reach its destination, 
though the sender knows it not. The psalmist had 
found no ease in remembering God. He finds as little 
in remembering a brighter past. That he should have 
turned to history in seeking for consolation implies 
that his affliction was national in its sweep, however 
intensely personal in its pressure. This retrospective 
meditation on the great deeds of old is characteristic 
of the Asaph psalms. It ministers in them to many 
moods, as memory always does. In this psalm we 
have it feeding two directly opposite emotions. It may 
be the nurse of bitter Despair, or of bright-eyed Hope. 
When the thought of God occasions but sighs, the 
remembrance of His acts can only make the present 
more doleful. The heavy spirit finds reasons for 
heaviness in God's past and in its own. The psalmist 
in his sleepless vigils remembers other wakeful times, 
when his song filled the night with music and ** awoke 
the dawn." Ver. 6 is parallel with ver. 3. The three 
key-words, remember^ muse, spirit, recur. There, musing 
ended in wrapping the spirit in deeper gloom. Here, 
it stings that spirit to activity in questionings, which 
the next strophe flings out in vehement number and 


Startling plainness. It is better to be pricked to even 
such interrogations by affliction than to be made torpid 
by it. All depends on the temper in which they are 
asked. If that is right, answers which will scatter 
gloom are not far off. 

The comparison of present national evils with former 
happiness naturally suggests such questions. Obviously, 
the casting off spoken of in ver. 7 is that of the nation, 
and hence its mention confirms the view that the 
psalmist is suffering under public calamities. All the 
questions mean substantially one thing — has God 
changed ? They are not, as some questions are, the 
strongest mode of asserting their negative ; nor are 
they, like others, a more than half assertion of their 
affirmative ; but they are what they purport to be — the 
anxious interrogations of an afQicted inan, who would 
fain be sure that God is the same as ever, but is 
staggered by the dismal contrast of Now and Then. 
He faces with trembling the terrible possibilities, and, 
however his language may seem to regard failure of 
resources or fickleness of purpose or limitations in 
long-suffering as conceivable in God, his doubts are 
better put into plain speech than lying diffused and 
darkening, like poisonous mists, in his heart. A 
thought, be it good or bad, can be dealt with when it 
is made articulate. Formulating vague conceptions is 
like cutting a channel in a bog for the water to run. 
One gets it together in manageable shape, and the soil 
is drained. So the end of the despondent half of the 
psalm is marked by the bringing to distinct speech of 
the suspicions which floated in the singer's mind and 
made him miserable. The Selah bids us dwell on the 
questions, so as to realise their gravity and prepare 
ourselves for their answer. 

Ixxvii.] THE PSALMS 377 

The second part begins in ver. lO with an obscure 
and much-commen ted-on verse, of which two explana- 
tions are possible, depending mainly on the meanings 
of the two words '* sickness " and ^' years." The former 
word may mean ** my wounding " or " my sickness." 
The latter is by many commentators taken to be an 
infinitive verb, with the signification to be changedy and 
by others to be a plural noun meaning ^^years^^ 
as in ver. 6. Neglecting some minor differences, we 
may say that those who understand the word to mean 
being changed explain the whole thus : *' This is my 
wound (misery, sorrow), that the right hand of the 
Most High has changed." So the old versions, and 
Hupfeld, Perowne, and Baethgen. But the use of the 
word in ver. 6 for '* years " creates a strong presump- 
tion that its sense is the same here. As to the other 
word, its force is best seen by reference to a closely 
parallel passage in Jer. x. 19 — "I said. Truly this is 
my grief (margin, sickness)^ and I must bear it " ; where 
the word for grief, though not the same as in the psalm, 
is cognate. The most probable meaning, then, for the 
expression here is, "This my afiQiction is sent from 
God, and I must bear it with resignation." Then 
follows an elevating thought expressed in its simplest 
form like an exclamation, " the yearSy^ etc. — i.e.y " I will 
remember (comp. ver. 6) the time when the right hand 
of Jehovah had the pre-eminence " (Cheyne, in loc). 
Delitzsch leaves the ellipsis unfilled, and takes the 
whole to mean that the psalmist says to himself that 
the afQiction allotted will only last for the time which the 
mighty hand of God has determined. The rendering 
adopted above avoids the awkwardness of using the 
same word in two different senses in the same context, 
yields an appropriate meaning, especially in view of 


the continual references to remembering, and begins 
the new strophe with a new note of hopefulness, 
whereas the other renderings prolong the minor key 
of the first part into the second. It is therefore to be 
preferred. The revolution in feeling is abrupt. All 
is sunny and bright in the last half. What makes the 
change ? The recognition of two great truths : first, 
that the calamity is laid on Israel, and on the psalmist 
as a member of the nation, by God, and has not come 
because of that impossible change in Him which the 
bitter questions had suggested ; and, second, the un- 
changeable eternity of God's delivering power. That 
second truth comes to him as with a flash, and the 
broken words of ver. lO ^ hail the sudden rising of 
the new star. 

The remainder of the psalm holds fast by that 
thought of the great deeds of God in the past. It is 
a signal example of how the same facts remembered 
may depress or gladden, according to the point of view 
from which they are regarded. We can elect whether 
memory shall nourish despondency or gladness. Yet 
the alternative is not altogether a matter of choice ; for 
the only people to whom " remembering happier things " 
need not be ** a sorrow's crown of sorrow " are those 
who see God in the past, and so are sure that every joy 
that was and is not shall yet again be, in more thrilling 
and lasting form. If He shines out on us from the 
east that we have left behind. His brightness will paint 
the western sky towards which we travel. Beneath 
confidence in the perpetuity of past blessings lies con- 
fidence in the eternity of God. The "years of the 
right hand of the Most High " answer ail questions as 
to His change of purpose or of disposition, and supply 
the only firm foundation for calm assurance of the 

Ixxvii.] THE PSALMS 379 

future. Memory supplies the colours with which Hope 
paints her truest pictures. " That which hath been is 
that which shall be " may be the utterance of the blase 
man of the world, or of the devout man who trusts in 
the living God, and therefore knows that 

"There shall never be one lost good I 
What was shall live as before.'* 

The strophe in vv. 13-15 fixes on the one great 
redeeming act of the Exodus as the pledge of future 
deeds of a like kind, as need requires. The language 
is deeply tinged with reminiscences of Exod. xv. '* In 
holiness" (not ''in the sanctuary"), the question "Who 
is so great a God ? " the epithet " Who doest wonders," 
all come from Exod. xv. 11. "[Thine] arm" in the 
psalm recalls "By the greatness of Thine arm" in 
Exodus (ver. 16), and the psalmist's "redeemed Thy 
people" reproduces "the people which Thou hast 
redeemed" (Exod. xv. 13). The separate mention of 
" sons of Joseph " can scarcely be accounted for, if the 
psalm is prior to the division of the kingdoms. But 
the purpose of the designation is doubtful. It may 
express the psalmist's protest against the division as 
a breach of ancient national unity or his longings for 

The final strophe differs from the others in structure. 
It contains five verses instead of three, and the verses 
are (with the exception of the last) composed of three 
clauses each instead of two. Some commentators have 
supposed that vv. 16-19 are an addition to the original 
psalm, and think that they do not cohere well with 
the preceding. This view denies that there is any 
allusion in the closing verses to the passage of the Red 
Sea, and takes the whole as simply a description of a 


theophany, like that in Psalm xviii. But surely the 
writhing of the waters as if in pangs at the sight of God 
is such an allusion. Ver. 19, too, is best understood 
as referring to the path through the sea, whose waters 
returned and covered God's footprints from human 
eyes. Unless there is such a reference in vv. 16-19, 
the connection with the preceding and with ver. 20 is 
no doubt loose. But that is not so much a reason 
for denying the right of these verses to a place in the 
psalm as for recognising the reference. Why should 
a mere description of a theophany, which had nothing 
to do with the psalmist's theme, have been tacked on 
to it ? No doubt, the thunders, lightnings, and storm 
so grandly described here are unmentioned in Exodus ; 
and, quite possibly, may be simply poetic heightening 
of the scene, intended to suggest how majestic was the 
intervention which freed Israel. Some commentators, 
indeed, have claimed the picture as giving additional 
facts concerning the passage of the Red Sea. Dean 
Stanley, for example, has worked these points into his 
vivid description ; but that carries literalism too far. 

The picture in the psalm is most striking. The 
continuous short clauses crash and flash like the thun- 
ders and lightnings. That energetic metaphor of the 
waters writhing as if panic-struck is more violent than 
Western taste approves, but its emotional vigour as a 
rendering of the fact is unmistakable. " Thine arrows 
went to and fro " is a very imperfect transcript of the 
Hebrew, which suggests the swift zigzag of the fierce 
flashes. In ver. 18 the last word offers some difficulty. 
It literally means a wheely and is apparently best rendered 
as above, the thunder being poetically conceived of as 
the sound of the rolling wheels of God's chariot. There 
are several coincidences between w. 16-19 of the psalm 

Ixxvii.] THE PSALMS 381 

and Hab. iii. 10-15 : namely, the expression " writhed in 
pain," applied in Habakkuk to the mountains ; the word 
rendered " overflowing " (A.V.) or " tempest " (R. V.) 
in Hab. v. 10, cognate with the verb in ver. 17 of the 
psalm, and there rendered ** poured out " ; the designation 
of lightnings as God's arrows. Delitzsch strongly main- 
tains the priority of the psalm ; Hupfeld as strongly 
that of the prophet. 

The last verse returns to the two-claused structure 
of the earlier part. It comes in lovely contrast with 
the majestic and terrible picture preceding, like the 
wonderful setting forth of the purpose of the other 
theophany in Psalm xviii., which was for no higher end 
than to draw one poor man from the mighty waters. 
All this pomp of Divine appearance, with lightnings, 
thunders, a heaving earth, a shrinking sea, had for its 
end the leading the people of God to their land, as a 
shepherd does his flock. The image is again an echo 
of Exod. XV. 13. The thing intended is not merely 
the passage of the Red Sea, but the whole process of 
guidance begun there amid the darkness. Such a close 
is too abrupt to please some commentators. But what 
more was needful or possible to be said, in a retrospect 
of God's past acts, for the solace of a dark present ? 
It was more than enough to scatter fears and flash 
radiance into the gloom which had wrapped the psalmist. 
He need search no further. He has found what he 
sought ; and so he hushes his song, and gazes in silence 
on the all-sufficient answer which memory has brought 
to all his questions and doubts. Nothing could more 
completely express the living, ever-present worth of the 
ancient deeds of God than the " abruptness " with which 
this psalm ceases rather than ends. 


1 Give ear, my people, to my law, 

Bow your ear to the sayings of my mouth. 

2 I will open my mouth in a parable, 

I will utter riddles from the ancient days, 

3 What we have heard and known 
And our fathers have told us, 

4 We will not hide from their sons, 

Recounting to the generation to come the praises of Jehovah, 
And His might and the wonders that He has done. 

5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, 
And appointed a law in Israel, 

Which He commanded our fathers 
To make known to their children ; 

6 In order that the generation to come might know, 
The children who should be born, 

[Who] should rise up and tell to their children, 

7 That they might place their confidence in God, 
And not forget the deeds of God, 

But keep His commandments ; 

8 And not be as their fathers, 

A stubborn and rebellious generation, 
- A generation that did not make its heart steadfast, 
And whose spirit was not faithful towards God. 

9 The children of Ephraim, bearing [and] drawing bows, 
Turned back in the day of onset. 

10 They kept not the covenant of God, 
And in His law they refused to walk, 

1 1 And they forgot His doings. 

And the wonders which He had showed them. 

12 Before their fathers He did marvels. 

In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. 


Ixxviii.] THE PSALMS 383 

13 He cleft the sea and let them pass through, 

And He reared up the waters like a heap of corn, 

14 And He guided them in a cloud by day 
And all night in a fiery light. 

15 He cleft rocks in the wilderness, 

And gave them drink abundantly, as [from] ocean depths. 

16 And He brought forth streams from the cliff, 
And made waters to flow down like rivers. 

17 But they went on to sin yet more against Him, 
To rebel against the Most High in the desert. 

18 And they tempted God in their heart, 
In asking meat after their desire. 

19 And they spoke against God, they said, 

" Is God able to spread a table in the wilderness ? 

20 Behold, He struck a rock, and waters gushed forth^ 
And torrents flowed out. 

Is He able to give bread also ? 

Or will He prepare flesh for His people ? " 

21 Jehovah heard and was wroth, 
And a fire was kindled in Jacob, 

And wrath also went up against IsraeL 

22 For they did not believe in God, 
And trusted not in His salvation. 

23 And He commanded the clouds above, 
And opened the doors of heaven, 

24 And rained upon them manna to eat, 
And gave them the corn of heaven. 

25 Men did eat the bread of the Mighty Ones ; 
He sent them sustenance to the full. 

26 He made the east wind go forth in the heavena^ 
And guided the south wind by His power ; 

27 And He rained flesh upon them like dust, 
And winged fowls like the sand of the seas, 

28 And let it fall in the midst of their camp. 
Round about their habitations. 

29 So they ate and were surfeited. 

And their desires He brought to them. 

30 They were not estranged from their desires 
Their food was yet in their mouths. 


31 And the wrath of God rose against them, 
And slew the fattest of them, 

And struck down the young men of Israel, 

32 For all this they sinned yet more, 
And believed not in His wonders. 

33 So He made their days to vanish like a breath, 
And their years in suddenness. 

34 When He slew them, then they inquired after Him, 
And returned and sought God earnestly. 

35 And they remembered that God was their rock, 
And God Most High their redeemer. 

36 And they flattered Him with their mouth, 
And with their tongue they lied to Him, 

37 And their heart was not steadfast with Him, 
And they were not faithful to His covenant. 

38 But He is compassionate, covers iniquity, and destroys not; 
Yea, many a time He takes back His anger, 

And rouses not all His wrath. 

39 So He remembered that they were [but] flesh, 
A wind that goes and comes not again. 

40 How often did they provoke Him in the wilderness, 
Did they grieve Him in the desert ! 

41 Yea, again and again they tempted God, 
And the Holy One of Israel they vexed. 

42 They remembered not His hand, 

The day when He set them free from the adversary 

43 When He set forth His signs in Egypt, 
And His wonders in the field of Zoan. 

44 And He turned to blood their Nile streams. 
And their streams they could not drink. 

45 He sent amongst them flies that devoured them, 
And frogs that destroyed them. 

46 And He gave their increase to the caterpillar. 
And their toil to the locust. 

47 He killed their vines with hail, 
And their sycamores with frost. [?] 

4S And He gave their cattle up to the hail^ 
And their flocks to the lightnings. 

txxviii.] THE PSALMS 385 

^9 He sent against them the heat of His anger, 
"Wrath and indignation and trouble, 
A mission of angels of evil. 

50 He levelled a path for His anger, 

He spared not their souls from death. 

But delivered over their life to the pestilence. 

51 And He smote all the first-born of Egypt, 

The firstlings of [their] strength in the tents of Ham. 

52 And He made His people go forth like sheep. 
And guided them like a flock in the desert. 

53 And He led them safely, that they did not fear, 
And the sea covered their enemies. 

54 And He brought them to His holy border, 
This mountain, which His right hand had won. 

55 And He drove out the nations before them. 
And allotted them by line as an inheritance. 

And made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents. 

56 But they tempted and provoked God Most High, 
And His testimonies they did not keep. 

57 And they turned back and were faithless like their fathers, 
They were turned aside like a deceitful bow ; 

, 58 And thej"^ provoked Him to anger with their higtt places, 
And with their graven images they moved Him to jealousy. 

59 God heard and was wroth, 
And loathed Israel exceedingly. 

60 So that He rejected the habitation of Shiloh, 
The tent [which] He had pitched among men. 

6 1 And He gave His strength to captivity, 

And His beauty into the hand of the adversary, 

62 And He delivered His people to the sword, 
And against His inheritance He was wroth. 

63 Their young men the fire devoured, 

And their maidens were not praised in the marria 

64 Their priests fell by the sword. 

And their widows made no lamentation. 

65 Then the Lord awoke as one that had slept. 
Like a warrior shouting because of wine. 

66 And He btat His adversaries back, 
He put on them a perpetual reproach, 

VOL. II. 25 


67 And He loathed the tent of Joseph, 

And the tribe of Ephraim He did not choose. 

68 But He chose the tribe of Judah, 
Mount Zion, which He loved. 

69 And He built His sanctuary like [heavenly] heights^ 
Like the earth which He has founded for ever. 

70 And He chose David His servant, 
And took him from the sheepfolds ; 

71 From following the ewes that give suck, He brought him 
To feed Jacob His people. 

And Israel His inheritance. 

72 So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, 
And with the skilfulness of his hands he guided them. 

THIS psalm is closely related to Psalms cv.-cvii. 
Like them, it treats the history of Israel, and 
especially the Exodus and wilderness wanderings, for 
purposes of edification, rebuke, and encouragement. 
The past is held up as a mirror to the present genera- 
tion. It has been one long succession of miracles of 
mercy met by equally continuous ingratitude, which 
has ever been punished by national calamities. The 
psalm departs singularly from chronological order. It 
arranges its contents in two principal masses, each 
introduced by the same formula (vv. 12, 43) referring 
to ''wonders in Egypt and the field of Zoan." But the 
first mass has nothing to do with Egypt, but begins 
with the passage of the Red Sea, and is wholly occupied 
with the wilderness. The second group of wonders 
begins in ver. 44 with the plagues of Egypt, touches 
lightly on the wilderness history, and then passes to 
the early history of Israel when settled in the land, 
and finishes with the establishment of David on the 
throne. It is difficult to account for this singular 
bouleversement of the history. But the conjecture may 
be hazarded that its reason lies in the better illustration 

Ixxviii.] THE PSALMS 387 

of continual interlacing of mercy and unthankfulness 
afforded by the events in the wilderness, than by the 
plagues of Egypt. That interlacing is the main point 
on which the psalmist wishes to lay stress, and there- 
fore he begins with the most striking example of it. 
The use of the formula in ver. 12 looks as if his 
original intention had been to follow the order of time. 
Another peculiarity is the prominence given to Ephraim, 
both in ver. 9 as a type of faithlessness, and in ver. 
^'j as rejected in favour of Judah. These references 
naturally point to the date of the psalm as being sub- 
sequent to the separation of the kingdoms ; but whether 
it is meant as rebuke to the northern kingdom, or as 
warning to Judah from the fate of Ephraim, is not clear. 
Nor are there materials for closer determination of date. 
The tone of the closing reference to David implies that 
his accession belongs to somewhat remote times. 

There are no regular strophes, but a tendency to 
run into paragraphs of four verses, with occasional 

Vv. 1-4 declare the singer*s didactic purpose. He 
deeply feels the solidarity of the nation through all 
generations — how fathers and children are knit by 
mystic ties, and by possession of an eternal treasure, 
the mighty deeds of God, of which they are bound to pass 
on the record from age to age. The history of ancient 
days is " a parable " and a ** riddle " or " dark saying," 
as containing examples of great principles, and" lessons 
which need reflection to discern and draw out. From 
that point of view, the psalmist will sum up the past. 
He is not a chronicler, but a religious teacher. His 
purpose is edification, rebuke, encouragement, the 
deepening of godly fear and obedience. In a word, 
he means to give the spirit of the nation's history. 


Vv. 5-8 base this purpose on God's declared will 
that the knowledge of His deeds for Israel might be 
handed down from fathers to sons. The obligations 
of parents for the religious training of their children, 
the true bond of family unity, the ancient order of 
things when oral tradition was the principal means 
of preserving national history, the peculiarity of this 
nation's annals, as celebrating no heroes and recording 
only the deeds of God by men, the contrast between 
the changing bearers of the story and the undying 
deeds which they had to tell, are all expressed in these 
verses, so pathetic in their gaze upon the linked series 
of short-lived men, so stern in their final declaration 
that Divine commandment and mercy had been in vain, 
and that, instead of a tradition of goodness, there had 
been a transmission of stubbornness and departure 
from God, repeating itself with tragic uniformity. 
The devout poet, who knows what God meant family 
life to be and to do, sadly recognises the grim contrast 
presented by its reality. But yet he will make one 
more attempt to break the flow of evil from father to 
son. Perhaps his contemporaries will listen and shake 
themselves clear of this entail of disobedience. 

The reference to Ephraim in vv. 9-1 1 is not to be 
taken as alluding to any cowardly retreat from actual 
battle. Ver. 9 seems to be a purely figurative way 
of expressing what is put without a metaphor in the 
two following verses. Ephraim's revolt from God's 
covenant was like the conduct of soldiers, well armed 
and refusing to charge the foe. The better their 
weapons, the greater the cowardice and ignominy 
of the recreants. So the faithlessness of Ephraim 
was made darker in criminality by its knowledge of 
God and experience of His mercy. These should have 

Ixxviii.] THE PSALMS 389 

knit the tribe to Him. A general truth of wide ap- 
plication is implied — that the measure of capacity 
is the measure, of obligation. Guilt increases with 
endowment, if the latter is misused. A poor soldier, 
with no weapon but a sling or a stick, might sooner 
be excused for flight than a fully armed archer. The 
mention of Ephraim as prominent in faithlessness may 
be an allusion to the separation of the kingdoms. That 
allusion has been denied on the ground that it is the 
wilderness history which is here before the psalmist's 
mind. But the historical retrospect does not begin 
till ver. 12, and this introduction may well deal with 
an event later than those detailed in the following 
verses. Whether the revolt of the Ten Tribes is here 
in view or not, the psalmist sees that the wayward 
and powerful tribe of Ephraim had been a centre of 
religious disaffection, and there is no reason why his 
view should not be believed, or should be supposed to 
be due to mere prejudiced hostility. 

The historical details begin with ver. 12, but, as has 
been noticed above, the psalmist seems to change his 
intention of first narrating the wonders in Egypt, and 
passes on to dilate on the wilderness history. "The 
field of Zoan " is the territory of the famous Egyptian 
city of Tzan, and seems equivalent to the Land of 
Goshen. The wonders enumerated are the familiar 
ones of the passage of the Red Sea, the guidance by 
the pillar of cloud and fire, and the miraculous supply 
of water from the rock. In vv. 15, 16, the poet brings 
together the two instances of such supply, which were 
separated from each other by the forty years of wander- 
ing, the first having occurred at Horeb in the first year, 
and the second at Kadesh in the last year. The two 
words "rocks," in ver. 15, and " cliff," in ver. 16, are 


taken from the two narratives of these miracles, in 
Exod. xvii. and Numb. xx. 

The group of four verses (13-16) sets forth God's 
mighty deeds; the next quartet of verses (17-20) tells 
of Israel's requital. It is significant of the thoughts 
which filled the singer's heart, that he begins the latter 
group with declaring that, notwithstanding such tokens 
of God's care, the people *' went on to sin yet more," 
though he had specified no previous acts of sin. He 
combines widely separated instances of their murmur- 
ings, as he had combined distant instances of God's 
miraculous supply of water. The complaints which 
preceded the fall of the manna and the first supply of 
quails (Exod. xvi.), and those which led to the second 
giving of these (Numb, xi.) are thrown together, as 
one in kind. The speech put into the mouths of the 
murmurers in vv. 19, 20, is a poetic casting into bitter, 
blasphemous words of the half-conscious thoughts of 
the faithless, sensuous crowd. They are represented 
as almost upbraiding God with His miracle, as quite 
unmoved to trust by it, and as thinking that it has 
exhausted His power. When they were half dead 
with thirst, they thought much of the water, but now 
they depreciate that past wonder as a comparatively 
small thing. So, to the churlish heart, which cherishes 
eager desires after some unattained earthly good, past 
blessings diminish as they recede, and leave neither 
thankfulness nor trust. There is a dash of intense 
bitterness and ironical making light of their relation 
to God in their question, "Can He provide flesh for 
His people ? " Much good that name has done us, 
starving here I The root of all this blasphemous talk 
was sensuous desire ; and because the people yielded to 
it, they '^ tempted God " — that is, they '* unbelievingly 

Ixxviii.] THE PSALMS 391 

and defiantly demanded, instead of trustfully waiting 
and praying " (Delitzsch). To ask food for their desires 
was sin ; to ask it for their need would have been faith. 

In ver. 21 the allusion is to the "fire of the Lord," 
which, according to Numb. xi. 3, burnt in the camp, 
just before the second giving of quails. It comes in 
here out of chronological order, for the sending of 
manna follows it ; but the psalmist's didactic purpose 
renders him indifferent to chronology. The manna is 
called " corn of heaven " and ^* bread of the Mighty 
Ones " — i.e. J angels, as the LXX. renders the word. 
Both designations point to its heavenly origin, without 
its being necessary to suppose that the poet thought of 
angels as really eating it. The description of the fall 
of the quails (vv. 26-29) is touched with imaginative 
beauty. The word rendered above " made to go forth " 
is originally applied to the breaking up of an encamp- 
ment, and that rendered ** guided " to a shepherd's 
leading of his flock. Both words are found in the 
Pentateuch, the former in reference to the wind that 
brought the quails (Numb. xi. 31), the latter in refer- 
ence to that which brought the plague of locusts (Exod. 
X. 13). So the winds are conceived of as God's 
servants, issuing from their tents at His command, and 
guided by Him as a shepherd leads his sheep. ** He 
let it fall in the midst of their camp" graphically 
describes the dropping down of the wearied, storm- 
beaten birds. 

Vv. 30-33 paint the swift punishment of the people's 
unbelief, in language almost identical with Numb. xi. 33. 
The psalmist twice stigmatises their sin as ** lust," and 
uses the word which enters into the tragical name 
given to the scene of the sin and the punishment — 
Ki])roth-Hat taavah (the graves of Lust). In vv. 32, 33, 


the faint-hearted despondency after the return of the 
spies, and the punishment of it by the sentence of 
death on all that generation, seem to be alluded to. 

The next group of four verses describes the people's 
superficial and transient repentance, *'When He slew 
them they sought Him " — />., when the fiery serpents 
were sent among them. But such seeking after God, 
which is properly not seeking Him at all, but only 
seeking to escape from evil, neither goes deep nor 
lasts long. Thus the end of it was only lip reverence, 
proved to be false by life, and soon ended. "Their 
heart was not steadfast." The pressure being removed, 
they returned to their habitual position, as all such 
penitents do. 

From the midst of this sad narrative of faithlessness, 
springs up, like a fountain in a weary land, or a flower 
among half-cooled lava blocks, the lovely description of 
God's forbearance in vv. 38, 39. It must not be read 
as if it merely carried on the narrative, and was in 
continuation of the preceding clauses. The psalmist 
does not say ** He was full of compassion," though that 
would be much, in the circumstances ; but he is declar- 
ing God's eternal character. His compassions are 
unfailing. It is always His wont to cover sin and to 
spare. Therefore He exercised these gracious forbear- 
ances towards those obstinate transgressors. He was 
true to His own compassion in remembering their 
mortality and feebleness. What a melancholy sound, 
as of wind blowing among forgotten graves, has that 
summing up of human life as " a breath that goes and 
comes not again " 1 

With ver. 40 the second portion of the psalm may 
be regarded as beginning. The first group of historical 
details dealt first with God's mercies, and passed on 

Ixxviii.] THE PSALMS 393 

to man's requital. The second starts with man's in- 
gratitude, which it paints in the darkest colours, as 
provoking Him, grieving Him, tempting Him, and 
vexing Him. The psalmist is not afraid to represent 
God as affected with such emotions by reason of men's 
indifference and unbelief His language is not to be 
waved aside as anthropomorphic and antiquated. No 
doubt, we come nearer to the unattainable truth, when 
we conceive of God as grieved by men's sins and 
delighting in their trust, than when we think of Him 
as an impassive Infinitude, serenely indifferent to 
tortured or sinful hearts. For is not His name of 
names Love ? 

The psalmist traces Israel's sin to forgetfulness of 
God's mercy, and thus glides into a swift summing up 
of the plagues of Egypt, regarded as conducing to 
Israel's deliverance. They are not arranged chrono- 
logically, though the list begins with the first. Then 
follow three of those in which animals were the 
destroyers : namely, the fourth, that of flies ; the second, 
that of frogs ; and the eighth, that of locusts. Then 
comes the seventh, that of hail ; and, according to some 
commentators, the fifth, that of the murrain, in ver. 49, 
followed by the tenth in ver. 51. But the grand, 
sombre imagery of ver. 49 is too majestic for such 
application. It rather sums up the whole series of 
plagues, likening them to an embassy (lit., a sending) of 
angels of evil. They are a grim company to come forth 
from His presence — Wrath, Indignation, and Trouble. 
The same power which sent them out on their errand 
prepared a way before them ; and the crowning judg- 
ment, which, in the psalmist's view was also the 
crowning mercy, was the death of the first-born. 

The next quartet of verses (vv. 52-55) passes lightly 


over the wilderness history and the settlement in the 
land, and hastens on to a renewed narration of repeated 
rebellion, which occupies the next group (vv. 56-59). 
These verses cover the period from the entrance on 
Canaan to the fall of the sanctuary of Shiloh, during 
which there was a continual tendency to relapse into 
idolatry. That is the special sin here charged against 
the Israel-of the time of the Judges. The figuie of a 
^' deceitful bow/' in ver. 57, well describes the people 
as failing to fulfil the purpose of their choice by God. 
As such a weapon does not shoot true, and makes 
the arrow fly wide, however well aimed and strongly 
drawn, so Israel foiled all Divine attempts, and failed 
to carry God's message to the world, or to fulfil His 
will in themselves. Hence the next verses tell, with 
intense energy and pathos, the sad story of Israel's 
humiliation under the Philistines. The language is 
extraordinarily strong in its description of God's loath- 
ing and rejection of the nation and sanctuary, and 
is instinct with sorrow, blended with stem recognition 
of His righteousness in judgment. What a tragic 
picture the psalmist draws 1 Shiloh, the dwelling-place 
of God, empty for evermore ; the ** Glory " — that is, 
the Ark — in the enemy's hands ; everywhere stiffening 
corpses ; a pall of silence over the land ; no brides and 
no joyous bridal chaunts ; the very priests massacred, 
unlamented by their widows, who had wept so many 
tears already that the fountain of them was dried up, 
and even sorrowing love was dumb with horror and 
despair 1 

The two last groups of verses paint God's great 
mercy in delivering the nation from such misery. The 
daring figure of His awaking as from sleep and dashing 
upon Israel's foes, who are also His, with a shout like 

Ixxviii.] THE PSALMS 395 

that of a hero stimulated by wine, is more accordant 
with Eastern fervour than with our colder imagination ; 
but it wonderfully expresses the sudden transition from 
a period, during which God seemed passive and care- 
less of His people's wretchedness, to one in which His 
power flashed forth triumphant for their defence. The 
prose fact is the long series of victories over the 
Philistines and other oppressors, which culminated in 
the restoration of the Ark, the selection of Zion as its 
abode, which involved the rejection of Shiloh and con- 
sequently of Ephraim (in whose territory Shiloh wa^;)^ 
and the accession of David. The Davidic kingdom is, 
in the psalmist's view, the final form of Israel's national 
existence ; and the sanctuary, like the kingdom, is 
perpetual as the lofty heavens or the firm earth. Nor 
were his visions vain, for that kingdom subsists and 
will subsist for ever, and the true sanctuary, the 
dwelling-place of God among men, is still more closely 
intertwined with the kingdom and its King than the 
psalmist knew. The perpetual duration of both is, 
in truth, the greatest of God's mercies, outshining all 
earlier deliverances ; and they who truly have become 
the subjects of the Christ, the King of Israel and of 
the world, and who dwell with God in His house, by 
dwelling with Jesus, will not rebel against Him any 
more, nor ever forget His wonders, but faithfully tell 
them to the gen^'^ations to come. 


1 O God, [the] heathen have come into Thine inheritance 
They have profaned Thy holy Temple, 

They have made Jerusalem heaps of stones. 

2 They have given the corpses of Thy servants [as") meat to the 

fowls of the heavens, 
The flesh of Thy favoured Ones to the beasts of the earth. 

3 They have poured out their blood like water round Jerusalem, 
And there was none to bury [them]. 

4 We have become a reproach to our neighbours, 
A scoff and a scorn to those round us. 

5 How long, Jehovah, wilt Thou be angry for ever? 
[How long] shall Thy jealousy burn like fire ? 

6 Pour out Thy wrath upon the heathen who know Thee not, 
And upon [the] kingdoms which call not upon Thy name. 

7 For they have eaten up Jacob, 

And his pasture have they laid waste. 

8 Remember not against us the iniquities of those before us, 
Speedily let Thy compassions [come to] meet us, 

For we are brought very low. 

9 Help us, O God, for the sake of the glory of Thy name, 

And deliver us, and cover over our sins for the sake of Thy name. 

10 Why should the heathen say, Where is their God ? 
Let there be known among the heathen before our eyes 

The revenging of the blood of Thy servants which is poured out. 

1 1 Let there come before Thee the groaning of the captive, 
According to the greatness of Thine arm preserve the sons of 


12 And return to our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom 

Their reproach [with] which they have reproached Thee, O Lord 

13 And we, we the people and the flock of Thy pasture, 
Will thank Thee for ever; 

To generation after generation will we recount Thy praise 


Ixxix.] THE PSALMS 397 

THE same national agony which was the theme 
of Psalm Ixxiv. forced the sad strains of this psalm 
from the singer's heart. There, the profanation of the 
Temple, and here, the destruction of the city, are the 
more prominent. There, the dishonour to God ; here, 
the distresses of His people, are set forth. Consequently, 
confession of sin is more appropriate here, and prayers 
for pardon blend with those for deliverance. But the 
tone of both psalms is the same, and there are similari- 
ties of expression which favour, though they do not 
demand, the hypothesis that the author is the same. 
Such similarities are the ^' how long" (Ixxiv. lo and 
Ixxix. 5); the desecration of the Temple (Ixxiv. 3, 7, and 
Ixxix. i) the giving over to wild beasts (Ixxiv. 19, 
and Ixxix. 2); the reproach of God (Ixxiv. 10, 18, 22, 
and Ixxix. 12). The comparison of Israel to a flock 
is found in both psalms, but in others of the Asaph 
group also. 

The same remarks which were made as to the date 
of the former psalm apply in this case. Two arguments 
have, however, been urged against the Maccabean date. 
The first is that drawn from the occurrence of vv. 6, 7, 
in Jer. x. 25. It is contended that Jeremiah is in 
the habit of borrowing from earlier writers, that the 
verse immediately preceding that in question is quoted 
from Psalm vi. i, and that the connection of the 
passage in the psalm is closer than in the prophet, 
and, therefore, that the words are presumably in situ 
here, as also that the verbal alterations are such as 
to suggest that the prophet rather than the psalmist 
is the adapter. But, on the other hand, Hupfeld 
maintains that the connection in Jeremiah is the closer. 
Not much weight can be attached to that point, for 
neither prophet nor poet can be tied down to cool 



concatenation of sentences. Delitzsch claims the verbal 
alterations as indubitable proofs of the priority of the 
prophet, and maintains that ^^ the borrower betrays 
himself" by changing the prophet's words into less 
accurate and elegant ones, and by omissions which 
impair ^^ the soaring fulness of Jeremiah's expressions." 
The critics who hold that the psalm refers to the 
Chaldean invasion, and that Jeremiah has borrowed 
from it, have to face a formidable difficulty. The psalm 
must have been written after the catastrophe : the 
prophecy preceded it. How then can the prophet be 
quoting the psalm ? The question has not been satis- 
factorily answered, nor is it likely to be. 

A second argument against the Maccabean date is 
based upon the quotation of ver. 3 in i Mace. vii. 16, 
which it introduces by the usual formula of quotation 
from Scripture. It is urged that a composition so 
recent as the psalm would be, if of Maccabean date, 
would not be likely to be thus referred to. But this 
argument confuses the date of occurrence recorded in 
I Maccabees with the date of the record ; and there 
is no improbabihty in the writer of the book quoting 
as Scripture a psalm which had sprung from the midst 
of the tragedy which he narrates. 

The strophical division is not perfectly clear, but it 
is probably best to recognise three strophes of four 
verses each, with an appended verse of conclusion. 
The first spreads before God His people's miseries. 
The second and third are prayer for deliverance and 
confession of sin ; but they differ, in that the former 
strophe dwells mainly upon the wished-for destruction 
of the enemy, and the latter upon the rescue of Israel, 
while a subordinate diversity is that ancestral sins are 
confessed in the one, and those of the present genera- 

Ixxix.] THE PSALMS 399 

tion in the other. Ver. 13 stands out of the strophe 
scheme as a kind of epilogue. 

The first strophe vividly describes the ghastly sights 
that wrung the psalmist's heart, and will, as he trusts, 
move God's to pity and help. The same thought as 
was expressed in Psalm Ixxiv. underlies the emphatic 
repetition of "Thy" in this strophe — namely, the im- 
plication of God's fair name in His people's disasters. 
" Thine inheritance " is invaded, and *^ Thy holy Temple" 
defiled by the ''heathen." The corpses of'' Thy servants" 
lie unburied, torn by vultures' beaks and jackals' claws. 
The blood of " Thy favoured Ones " saturates the 
ground. It was not easy to hold fast by the reality 
of God's special relation to a nation thus apparently 
deserted, but the psalmist's faith stood even such a 
strain, and is not dashed by a trace of doubt. Such 
times are the test and triumph of trust. If genuine, 
it will show brightest against the blackest background. 
The word in ver. i rendered "heathen" is usually 
translated " nations," but here evidently connotes 
idolatry (ver. 6). Their worship of strange gods, 
rather than their alien nationality, makes their invasion 
of God's inheritance a tragic anomaly. The psalmist 
remembers the prophecy of Micah (iii. 12) that Jerusalem 
should become heaps, and sadly repeats it as fulfilled 
at last. As already noticed, ver. 3 is quoted in i Mace, 
vii. 16, 17, and ver. 4 is found in Psalm xliv. 13, which 
is by many commentators referred to the Maccabean 

The second strophe passes to direct petition, which, 
as it were, gives voice to the stiffened corpses strewing 
the streets, and the righteous blood crying from the 
ground. The psalmist goes straight to the cause of 
calamity — the anger of God — and, in the close of the 


Strophe, confesses the sins which had kindled it. 
Beneath the play of politics and the madness of 
Antiochus, he discerned God's hand at work. He 
reiterates the fundamental lesson, which prophets were 
never weary of teaching, that national disasters are 
caused by the anger of God, which is excited by 
national sins. That conviction is the first element 
in his petitions. A second is the twin conviction that 
the " heathen " are used by God as His instrument of 
chastisement, but that, when they have done their work, 
they are called to account for the human passion — 
cruelty, lust of conquest, and the like — which impelled 
them to it. Even as they poured out the blood of 
God's people, they have God's wrath poured out on 
them, because " they have eaten up Jacob." 

The same double point of view is frequently taken 
by the prophets : for example, in Isaiah's magnificent 
prophecy against *^ the Assyrian " (x. 5 seq.)y where 
the conqueror is first addressed as **the rod of Mine 
anger," and then his ''punishment " is foretold, because, 
while executing God's purpose, he had been unconscious 
of his mission, and had been gratifying his ambition. 
These two convictions go very deep into '* the philo- 
sophy of history." Though modified in their application 
to modern states and politics, they are true in sub- 
stance still. The Goths who swept down on Rome, the 
Arabs who crushed a corrupt Christianity, the French 
who stormed across Europe, were God's scavengers, 
gathered vulture-like round carrion, but they were 
each responsible for their cruelty, and were punished 
" for the fruit of their stout hearts." 

The closing verse of the strophe (ver. 8) is intimately 
connected with the next, which we take as beginning 
the third strophe; but this connection does not set 

Ixxix.] THE PSALMS 401 

aside the strophical division, though it somewhat ob- 
scures it. The distinction between the similar petitions 
of vv. S, 9, is sufficient to warrant our recognition 
of that division, even whilst acknowledging that the 
two parts coalesce more closely than usual. The 
psalmist knows that the heathen have been hurled 
against Israel because God is angry ; and he knows 
that God's anger is no arbitrarily kindled flame, but 
one lit and fed by Israel's sins. He knows, too, that 
there is a fatal entail by which the iniquities of the 
fathers are visited on the children. Therefore, he asks 
first that these ancestral sins may not be '^ remembered," 
nor their consequences discharged on the children's 
heads. " The evil that men do lives after them," and 
history affords abundant instances of the accumulated 
consequences of ancestors' crimes lighting on descend- 
ants that had abandoned the ancient evil, and were 
possibly doing their best to redress it. Guilt is not 
transmitted, but results of wrong are ; and it is one 
of the tragedies of history that " one soweth and another 
reapeth " the bitter fruit. Upon one generation may, 
and often does, come the blood of all the righteous 
men that many generations have slain (Matt, xxiii. 35). 
The last strophe (vv. 9-12) continues the strain 
begun in ver. 8, but with significant deepening into 
confession of the sins of the existing generation. The 
psalmist knows that the present disaster is no case of 
the fathers having eaten sour grapes and the children's 
teeth being set on edge, but that he and his con- 
temporaries had repeated the fathers' trangressions. 
The ground of his plea for cleansing and deliverance 
is the glory of God's name, which he emphatically puts 
at the end of both clauses of ver. 9. He repeats the 
same thought in another form in the question of ver. 10, 

VOL. II. 26 


" Why should the heathen say, Where is their God ? " 
If Israel, sinful though it is, and therefore meriting 
chastisement, is destroyed, there will be a blot on 
God's name, and the *' heathen " will take it as proof, 
not that Israel's God was just, but that He was 
too feeble or too far off to hear prayers or to send 
succours. It is bold faith which blends acknowledg- 
ment of sins with such a conviction of the inextricable 
intertwining of God's glory and the sinners' deliverance. 
Lowly confession is wonderfully wedded to confidence 
that seems almost too lofty. But the confidence is 
in its inmost core as lowly as the confession, for it 
disclaims all right to God's help, and clasps His name 
as its only but sufficient plea. 

The final strophe dwells more on the sufferings of 
the survivors than the earlier parts of the psalm do, 
and in this respect contrasts with Psalm Ixxiv., which 
is all but entirely silent as to these. Not only does 
the spilt blood of dead confessors cry for vengeance, 
since they died for their faith, as " Thy servants," but 
the groans and sighs of the living who are captives, 
and ** sons of death " — ie., doomed to die, if unrescued 
by God — appeal to Him. The expressions '* the 
groaning of the captive " and ** the sons of death " 
occur in Psalm cii. 20, from which, if this is a com- 
position of Maccabean date, they are here quoted. The 
strophe ends with recurring to the central thought of 
both this and the companion psalm — the reproach on 
God from His servants' calamities — and prays that the 
enemies' taunts may be paid back into their bosoms 
sevenfold — i.e., in fullest measure. 

The epilogue in ver, 13 has the image of a flock, 
so frequent in the Asaph psalms, suggesting tender 
thoughts of the shepherd's care and of his obliga- 

Ixxix.) THE PSALMS 403 

tions. Deliverance will evoke praise, and, instead of 
the sad succession of sin and suffering from genera- 
tion to generation, the solidarity of the nation will 
be more happily expressed by ringing songs, transmitted 
from father to son, and gathering volume as they flow 
from age to age. 


1 Shepherd of Israel, give ear, 

Thou who leddest Joseph Uke a flock. 

Thou that sittest [throned upon] the cherubim, shine forth. 

2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up Thy strength, 
And come for salvation for us. 

3 O God, restore ms, 

And cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. 

4 Jehovah, God [of] Hosts, 

How long wilt Thou be angry against the prayer of Thy people ? 

5 Thou hast made them eat tears [as] bread. 

And hast given them to drink [of] tears in large measure. 

6 Thou makest us a strife to our neighbours. 
And our enemies mock to their hearts' content. 

7 God [of] Hosts, restore us, 

And cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved, 

8 A vine out of Egypt didst Thou transplant, 
Thou didst drive out the nations and plant it. 

9 Thou didst clear a place before it, 

And it threw out its roots and filled the land. 

10 The mountains were covered with its shadow, 
And its branches [were like] the cedars of God. 

1 1 It spread its boughs [even] unto the sea. 
And to the River its shoots. 

12 Why hast Thou broken down its fences, 

So that all who pass on the way pluck from it? 

13 The boar of the wood roots it up, 
And the beasts of the field feed on it. 

14 God [of] Hosts, turn, we beseech The^ 
Look from heaven and see, 

And visit this vine. 


Ixxx.] THE PSALMS 405 

15 And protect what Thy right hand has planted, 
And the son whom Thou madest strong for Thyself. 

16 Burned with fire is it — cut down ; 

At the rebuke of Thy countenance they perish. 

17 Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, 

Upon the son of man [whom] Thou madest strong for Thyself 

18 And we will not go back from Thee ; 
Revive us, and we will invoke Thy name. 

19 Jehovah, God [of] Hosts, restore us. 

And cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. 

THIS psalm is a monument of some time of great 
national calamity ; but its allusions do not enable 
us to reach certainty as to what that calamity was. 
Two striking features of it have been used as clues to 
its occasion — namely, the designation of the nation as 
" Joseph," and the mention of the three tribes in ver. 2. 
Calvin, Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, and others are led 
thereby to regard it as a prayer by an inhabitant of 
Judah for the captive children of the northern kingdom ; 
while others, as Cheyne, consider that only the Persian 
period explains the usage in question. The name 
of ** Joseph" is applied to the whole nation in other 
Asaph psalms (Ixxvii. 1 5 ; Ixxxi. 5). It is tempting to 
suppose, with Hupfeld, that this nomenclature indicates 
that the ancient antagonism of the kingdoms has passed 
away with the captivity of the Ten Tribes, and that the 
psalmist, a singer in Judah, looks wistfully to the ideal 
unity, yearns to see breaches healed, and the old asso- 
ciations of happier days, when '* Ephraim and Benjamin 
and Manasseh " encamped side by side in the desert, 
and marched one after the other, renewed in a restored 
Israel. If this explanation of the mention of the tribes 
is adopted, the psalm falls in some period after the 
destruction of the northern kingdom, but prior to that 
of Judah The prayer in the refrain " turn us " might, 


indeed, mean " bring us back from exile," but may as 
accurately be regarded as asking for restored prosperity 
— an explanation which accords better with the rest 
of the psalm. We take the whole, then, as a prayer 
for the nation, conceived of in its original, long-broken 
unity. It looks back to the Divine purpose as expressed 
in ancient deeds of deliverance, and prays that it may 
be fulfilled, notwithstanding apparent thwarting. Closer 
definition of date is unattainable. 

The triple refrain in vv. 3, 7, 19, divides the psalm 
into three unequal parts. The last of these is dispropor- 
tionately long, and may be further broken up into three 
parts, of which the first (vv. 8-1 1 ) describes the luxu- 
riant growth of Israel under the parable of a vine, the 
second (vv. 12-14) brings to view the bitter contrast of 
present ruin, and, with an imperfect echo of the refrain, 
melts into the petitioning tone of the third (vv. 15-19), 
which is all prayer. 

In the first strophe " Shepherd of Israel " reminds us 
of Jacob's blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh, in which 
he invoked ^' the God who shepherded me all my life 
long " to " bless the lads," and of the title in Gen. 
xlix. 24, " the shepherd, the stone of Israel." The com- 
parison of the nation to a flock is characteristic of the 
Asaph psalms, and here refers to the guidance of the 
people at the Exodus. Delitzsch regards the notions 
of the earthly and heavenly sanctuary as being blended 
in the designation of God as sitting throned on the 
cherubim, but it is better to take the reference as being 
to His dwelling in the Temple. The word rendered 
" shine forth " occurs in Psalm 1. 2, where it expresses 
His coming from " Zion," and so it does here. The 
same metaphor underlies the subsequent petition in 
ver. 3. In both God is thought of as light, and the 

Ixxx.] THE PSALMS 407 

manifestation of His delivering help is likened to the 
blazing out of the sun from behind a cloud. 

In reference to the mention of the tribes in ver. 2, 
we need only add to what has been already said, that 
the petitions of ver. i, which look back to the wilderness 
marches, when the Ark led the van, naturally suggested 
the mention of the three tribes who were together 
reckoned as " the camp of Ephraim," and who, in the 
removal of the encampment, *^ set forth third " — that is, 
immediately in the rear of the tabernacle. The order 
of march explains not only the collocation here, but the 
use of the word "Before." Joseph and Benjamin were 
children of the same mother, and the schism which 
parted their descendants is, to the psalmist's faith, as 
transient as unnatural. Once again shall the old unity 
be seen, when the brothers' sons shall again dwell and 
fight side by side, and God shall again go forth before 
them for victory. 

The prayer of the refrain, " turn us," is not to be 
taken as for restoration from exile, which is negatived 
by the whole tone of the psalm, nor as for spiritual 
quickening, but simply asks for the return of the 
glories of ancient days. The petition that God would 
let His face shine upon the nation alludes to the priestly 
benediction (Numb. vi. 25), thus again carrying us 
back to the wilderness. Such a flashing forth is all 
that is needed to change blackest night into day. 
To be '' saved " means here to be rescued from the 
assaults of hostile nations. The poet was sure that 
Israel's sole defence was God, and that one gleam 
of His face would shrivel up the strongest foes, 
like unclean, slimy creatures which writhe and die in 
sunshine. The same conviction is valid in a higher 
sphere. Whatever elevation of meaning is given to 


** saved," the condition of it is always this — the mani- 
festation of God's face. That brings light into all dark 
hearts. To behold that light, and to walk in it, and to 
be transformed by beholding, as they are who lovingly 
and steadfastly gaze, is salvation. 

A piteous tale of suffering is wailed forth in the 
second strophe. The peculiar accumulation of the 
Divine names in vv. 4, 19, is found also in Psalms 
lix. 5 and Ixxxiv. 8. It is grammatically anomalous, 
as the word for God (Elohim) does not undergo the 
modification which would show that the next word is 
to be connected with it by " of." Hence, some have 
regarded '^ Ts'bhaoth " (hosts) as being almost equi- 
valent to a proper name of God, which it afterwards 
undoubtedly became ; while others have explained the 
construction by supposing the phrase to be elliptical, 
requiring after ^* God " the supplement *' God of" This 
accumulation of Divine names is by some taken as a 
sign of late date. Is it not a mark of the psalmist's 
intensity rather than of his period ? In accordance 
with the Elohistic character of the Asaph psalms, the 
common expression ^' Jehovah of Hosts " is expanded ; 
but the hypothesis that the expansion was the work of 
a redactor is unnecessary. It may quite as well have 
been that of the author. 

The urgent question ** How long ? " is not petulant 
impatience, but hope deferred, and, though sick at 
heart, still cleaving to God and remonstrating for long- 
protracted calamities. The bold imagery of ver. 4 b 
cannot well be reproduced in translation. The render- 
ing '' wilt Thou be angry ? " is but a feeble reproduc- 
tion of the vigorous original, which runs '^wilt Thou 
smoke ? " Other psalms (e.g.^ Ixxiv. i) speak of God's 
anger as smoking, but here the figure is applied to 

Ixxx.] THE PSALMS 409 

God Himself. What a contrast it presents to the 
petition in the refrain 1 That ^' Hght " of Israel has 
become ^* as a flaming fire." A terrible possibility of 
darkening and consuming wrath lies in the Divine 
nature, and the very emblem of light suggests it. It 
is questionable whether the following words should be 
rendered *' against the prayer of Thy people/' or " while 
Thy people are praying " (Delitzsch). The former 
meaning is in accordance with the Hebrew, with other 
Scripture passages, and with the tone of the psalm, 
and is to be preferred, as more forcibly putting the 
anomaly of an unanswering God. Ver. 5 presents the 
national sorrows under familiar figures. The people's 
food and drink were tears. The words of a may either 
be rendered ** bread of tears " — i.e.y eaten with, or rather 
consisting of, tears ; or, as above, '' tears [as] bread." 
The word rendered *^in large measure" means ''the 
third part" — '* of some larger measure." It is found 
only in Isa. xl. 12. "The third part of an ephah is a 
puny measure for the dust of the earth, [but] it is a 
large measure for tears " (Delitzsch, in loc?). Ver. 6 
adds one more touch to the picture — gleeful neighbours 
cynically rejoicing to their hearts' content (lit., for 
themselves) over Israel's calamities. Thus, in three 
verses, the psalmist points to an angry God, a weeping 
nation, and mocking foes, a trilogy of woe. On ail he 
bases an urgent repetition of the refrain, which is 
made more imploring by the expanded name under 
which God is invoked to help. Instead of the simple 
"God," as in ver. 3, he now says "God of Hosts." As 
sense of need increases, a true suppliant goes deeper 
into God's revealed character. 

From ver. 8 onwards the parable of the vine as 
representing Israel fills the singer's mind. As has 


been already noticed, this part of the psalm may be 
regarded as one long strophe, the parts of which follow 
in orderly sequence, and are held closely together, as 
shown by the recurrence of the refrain at the close 
only. Three stages are discernible in it — a picture of 
what has been, the contrast of what is now, and a 
prayer for speedy help. The emblem of the vine, 
which has received so great development in the prophets, 
and has been hallowed for ever by our Lord's use of 
it, seems to have been suggested to the psalmist by the 
history of Joseph, to which he has already alluded. 
For, in Jacob's blessing (Gen. xlix. 22 seqq.)^ Joseph 
is likened to a fruitful bough. Other Old Testament 
writers have drawn out the manifold felicities of the 
emblem as applied to Israel. But these need not 
concern us here, where the point is rather God's 
husbandry and the vine's growth, both of which are in 
startling contrast with a doleful present. The figure 
is carried out with much beauty in detail. The 
Exodus was the vine's transplanting; the destruction 
of the Canaanites was the grubbing up of weeds to 
clear the ground for it ; the numerical increase of the 
people was its making roots and spreading far. In 
ver. 10^ the rendering may be either that adopted 
above, or " And the cedars of God [were covered with] 
its branches." The latter preserves the parallelism of 
clauses and the unity of representation in vv. lo, ii, 
which will then deal throughout with, the spreading 
growth of the vine. But the cedars would not have 
been called ** of God," — which implies their great size, 
. — unless their dimensions had been in point, which 
would not be the case if they were only thought of as 
espaliers for the vine. And the image of its running 
over the great trees of Lebanon is unnatural. The 

Ixxx.] THE PSALMS 4" 

rendering as above is to be preferred, even though it 
somewhat mars the unity of the picture. The extent 
of ground covered by the vine is described, in ver. 1 1, 
as stretching from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates 
(Deut. xi. 24; I Kings iv. 24). Such had been the 
glories of the past ; and they had all been the work of 
God's hand. 

In ver. 1 2 the miserable contrast of present desolation 
is spread before God, with the bold and yet submissive 
question '* Why ? " The vineyard wall is thrown 
down, and the vine lies exposed to every vagrant 
passenger, and to every destructive creature. Swine 
from the woods burrow at its roots, and "whatever 
moves on the plain" (Psalm 1. 11, the only other 
place where the expression occurs) feeds on it. The 
parallelism forbids the supposition that any particular 
enemy is meant by the wild boar. Hupfeld would 
transpose ver. 16 so as to stand after ver. 13, which 
he thinks improves the connection, and brings the last 
part of the psalm into symmetrical form, in three equal 
parts, containing four verses each. Cheyne would put 
vv. 14, 15, before vv. 12, 13, and thereby secures 
more coherence and sequence. But accuracy in these 
matters is not to be looked for in such highly emotional 
poetry, and perhaps a sympathetic ear may catch in the 
broken words a truer ring than in the more orderly 
arrangement of them by critics. 

Ver. 14 sounds like an imperfect echo of the refrain 
significantly modified, so as to beseech that God would 
"turn" Himself, even as He had been implored to 
"turn" His people. The purpose of His turning is 
that He may " look and see " the condition of the 
desolated vineyard, and thence be moved to interfere 
for its restoration. The verse may be regarded as 


closing one of the imperfectly developed strophes of 
this last part ; but it belongs in substance to the 
following petitions, though in form it is more closely 
connected with the preceding verses. The picture of 
Israel's misery passes insensibly into prayer, and the 
burden of that prayer is, first, that God would behold 
the sad facts, as the preliminary to His acting in view 
of them. 

The last part (vv. 15-19) is prayer for God's help, 
into which forces itself one verse (16), recurring to the 
miseries of the nation. It bursts in like an outcrop 
of lava, revealing underground disturbance and fires. 
Surely that interruption is more pathetic and natural 
than is the result obtained by the suggested trans- 
positions. The meaning of the word in ver. 15 
rendered above ^* protect " is doubtful, and many com- 
mentators would translate it as a noun, and regard it 
as meaning " plant," or, as the A.V., ^* vineyard." The 
verse would then depend on the preceding verb in 
ver. 14, "visit." But this construction is opposed by 
the copula (and) preceding, and it is best to render 
^'protect," with a slight change in the vocalisation. 
There may be an allusion to Jacob's blessing in 
ver. 15^, for in it (Gen. xlix. 22) Joseph is called a 
" fruitful bough " — lit., " son." If so, the figure of the 
vine is retained in ver. 1 5 ^ as well as in a. 

The apparent interruption of the petitions by ver. 16 
is accounted for by the sharp pang that shot into the 
psalmist's heart, when he recalled, in his immediately 
preceding words, the past Divine acts, which seemed 
so contradicted now. But the bitterness, though it 
surges up, is overcome, and his petitions return to 
their former strain in ver. 17, which pathetically takes 
up, as it were, the broken thread, by repeating " right 

Ixxx.] THE PSALMS 413 

hand " from ver. 1 5 «, and " whom Thou madest strong 
for Thyself" from ver. 15 ^. Israel, not an individual, 
is the " man of Thy right hand," in which designation, 
coupled with "son," there may be an allusion to the 
name of Benjamin (ver. 2), the ** son of the right hand." 
Human weakness and Divine strength clothing it are 
indicated in that designation for Israel **the son of 
man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself" The 
inmost purpose of God's gifts is that their recipients 
may be " the secretaries of His praise." Israel's sacred 
calling, its own weakness, and the strength of the God 
who endows it are all set forth, not now as lessons 
to it, but as pleas with Him, whose gifts are without 
repentance, and whose purposes cannot be foiled by 
man's unworthiness or opposition. 

The psalm closes with a vow of grateful adhesion 
to God as the result of His renewed mercy. They 
who have learned how bitter a thing it is to turn away 
from God, and how blessed when He turns again to 
them, and turns back their miseries and their sins, have 
good reason for not again departing from Him. But if 
they are wise to remember their own weakness, they will 
not only humbly vow future faithfulness, but earnestly 
implore continual help ; since only the constant com- 
munication of a Divine quickening will open their lips 
to call upon God's name. 

The refrain in its most expanded form closes the 
psalm. Growing intensity of desire and of realisation 
of the pleas and pledges hived in the name are 
expressed by its successive forms, — God ; God of 
Hosts ; Jehovah, God of Hosts. The faith that grasps 
all that is contained in that full-toned name already 
feels the light of God's face shining upon it, and is sure 
that its prayer for salvation is not in vain. 


I Shout for joy to God our strength, 

Shout aloud to the God of Jacob, 
ft Lift up the song, and sound the timbrel^ 

The pleasant lyre with the harp. 

3 Blow the trumpet on the new moon, 

On the full moon, for the day of our feast. 

4 For this is a statute for Israel, 
An ordinance of the God of Jacob. 

5 For a testimony in Joseph He appointed it, 
When He went forth over the land of Egypt. 
— A language which I know not I hear. 

6 I removed his shoulder from the burden, 
His hands were freed from the basket, 

7 In straits thou didst call and I delivered thee, 

I answered thee in the secret place of thunder, 
I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah. 

8 Hear, My people, and I will witness to thee; 

O Israel, would that thou wouldest hearken to Mel 

9 There shall be no strange god in thee. 

And thou shalt not bow down to an alien god. 

10 I, I am Jehovah thy God, 

Who brought thee up from the land of Egypt, 
Open wide thy mouth, and I will fill it. 

11 But My people hearkened not to My voice, 
And Israel did not yield to Me. 

12 Then I let them go in the stubbornness of their heart| 
That they might walk in their own counsels. 

13 Would that My people would hearken to Me, 
That Israel would walk in My ways! 

14 Easily would I humble their enemies. 

And against their adversaries turn My hand. 

Ixxxi.] THE PSALMS 415 

15 The haters of Jehovah would come feigning to Him, 
But their time should endure for ever. 

16 And He would feed thee with the fat of wheat, 
And with honey from the rock would I satisfy thee. 

THE psalmist summons priests and people to a 
solemn festival, commemorative of Israel's deliver- 
ance from Egypt, and sets forth the lessons which that 
deliverance teaches, the learning of which is the true 
way of keeping the feast. There has been much 
discussion as to which feast is in the psalmist's mind. 
That of Tabernacles has been widely accepted as 
intended, chiefly on the ground that the first day of 
the month in which it occurred was celebrated by the 
blowing of trumpets, as the beginning of the civil year. 
This practice is supposed to account for the language 
of ver. 3, which seems to imply trumpet-blowing both 
at new and full moon. But, on other grounds, the 
Passover is more likely to be intended, as the psalm 
deals with the manifestations of Divine power attend- 
ing the beginning of the Exodus, which followed the 
first Passover, as well as with those during the desert 
sojourn, which alone were commemorated by the feast 
of Tabernacles. True, we have no independent know- 
ledge of any trumpet-blowing on the first day of the 
Passover month (Nisan) ; but Delitzsch and others 
suggest that from this psalm it may be inferred '' that 
the commencement of each month, and more espe- 
cially the commencement of the month (Nisan), which 
was at the same time the commencement of the ecclesi- 
astical year, was signalised by the blowing of horns." 
On the whole, the Passover is most probably the feast 
in question. 

Olshausen, followed by Cheyne, regards the psalm 
as made up of two fragments (vv. 1-5 a, and 5 c-i6). 


But surely the exhortations and promises of the latter 
portion are most relevant to the summons to the festival 
contained in the former part, and there could be no 
more natural way of preparing for the right com- 
memoration of the deliverance than to draw out its 
lessons of obedience and to warn against departure 
from the delivering God. Definiteness as to date is 
unattainable. The presupposed existence of the full 
Temple ceremonial shows that the psalm was not 
written in exile, nor at a time of religious persecution. 
Its warning against idolatry would be needless in a 
post-exilic psalm, as no tendency thereto existed after 
the return from captivity. But beyond such general 
indications we cannot go. The theory that the psalm 
is composed of two fragments exaggerates the difference 
between the two parts into which it falls. These are 
the summons to the feast (vv. 1-5), and the lessons of 
the feast (vv. 6-16). 

Delitzsch suggests that the summons in ver. i is 
addressed to the whole congregation ; that in ver. 2 
to the Levites, the appointed singers and musicians ; 
and that in ver. 3 to the priests who are intrusted 
with blowing the Shophar, or horn (Josh. vi. 4, and 
2 Chron. xx. 28). One can almost hear the tumult 
of joyful sounds, in which the roar of the multitude, 
the high-pitched notes of singers, the deeper clash 
of timbrels, the twanging of stringed instruments, 
and the hoarse blare of rams' horns, mingle in con- 
cordant discord, grateful to Eastern ears, however 
unmusical to ours. The religion of Israel allowed and 
required exuberant joy. It sternly rejected painting 
and sculpture, but abundantly employed music, the 
most ethereal of the arts, which stirs emotions and 
longings too delicate and deep for speech. Whatever 

Ixxxi.] THE PSALMS 417 

differences in form have necessarily attended the 
progress from the worship of the Temple to that of the 
Church, the free play of joyful emotion should mark 
the latter even more than the former. Decorum is 
good, but not if purchased by the loss of ringing 
gladness. The psalmist's summons has a meaning 

The reason for it is given in vv. 4, 5 a. It — t.e,^ the 
feast (not the musical accompaniments) — is appointed 
by God. The psalmist employs designations for it, 
which are usually applied to '* the word of the Lord " ; 
statute, ordinance, testimony, being all found in Psalms 
xix., cxix., with that meaning. A triple designation of 
the people corresponds with these triple names for the 
feast. Israel^ Jacob^ and Joseph are synonyms, the 
use of the last of these having probably the same 
force here as in the preceding psalm — namely, to 
express the singer's longing for the restoration of the 
shattered unity of the nation. The summons to the 
feast is based, not only on Divine appointment, but 
also on Divine purpose in that appointment. It was 
" a testimony," a rite commemorative of a historical 
fact, and therefore an evidence of it to future times. 
There is no better proof of such a fact than a cele- 
bration of it, which originates contemporaneously and 
continues through generations. The feast in question 
was thus simultaneous with the event commemorated, 
as ver. 5 b tells. It was God, not Israel, as is often 
erroneously supposed, who " went forth." For the 
following preposition is not '' from," which might refer 
to the national departure, but "over" or "against," 
which cannot have such a reference, since Israel did 
not, in any sense, go " over " or " against " the land. 
God s triumphant forth-putting of power over the whole 

VOL. II. 27 


land, especially in the death of the first-born, on the 
night of the Passover, is meant to be remembered for 
ever, and is at once the fact commemorated by the 
feast, and a reason for obeying His appointment of it. 

So far the thoughts and language are limpid, but 
ver. 5 c interrupts their clear flow. Who is the speaker 
thus suddenly introduced ? What is the " language " 
(lit., lip) which he *^ knew not " ? The explanation 
implied by the A.V. and R.V., that the collective Israel 
speaks, and that the reference is, as in Psalm cxiv. i, 
to the *^ strange language " of the Egyptians, is given 
by most of the older authorities, and by Ewald and 
Hengstenberg, but has against it the necessity for the 
supplement *' where," and the difficulty of referring the 
" I " to the nation. The more usual explanation in 
modern times is that the speaker is the psalmist, and 
that the language which he hears is the voice of God, 
the substance of which follows in the remainder of the 
psalm. As in Job iv. i6 Eliphaz could not discern the 
appearance of the mysterious form that stood before his 
eyes, and thus its supernatural character is suggested, 
so the psalmist hears an utterance of a hitherto 
unknown kind, which he thus implies to have been 
Divine. God Himself speaks, to impress the lessons 
of the past, and to excite the thoughts and feelings 
which would rightly celebrate the feast. The glad 
noises of song, harp, and trumpet are hushed ; the 
psalmist is silent, to hear that dread Voice, and then 
with lowly lips he repeats so much of the majestic 
syllables as he could translate into words which it was 
possible for a man to utter. The inner coherence of 
the two parts of the psalm is, on this explanation, so 
obvious, that there is no need nor room for the hypo- 
thesis of two fragments having been fused into one. 

Ixxxi.] THE PSALMS 419 

The Divine Voice begins with recapitulating the facts 
which the feast was intended to commemorate — namely, 
the act of emancipation from Egyptian bondage (ver. 6), 
and the miracles of the wilderness sojourn (ver. 7). 
The compulsory labour, from which God delivered the 
people, is described by two terms, of which the former 
(burden) is borrowed from Exodus, where it frequently 
occurs (Exod. i. 11, v. 4, vi. 6), and the latter (basket) 
is by some supposed to mean the wicker-work imple- 
ment for carrying, which the monuments show was in 
use in Egypt (so LXX., etc.), and by others to mean 
an earthen vessel, as '^ an example of the work in clay 
in which the Israelites were engaged " (Hupfeld). The 
years of desert wandering are summed up, in ver. 7, 
as one long continuance of benefits from God. When- 
ever they cried to Him in their trouble, He delivered 
them. He spoke to them "from the secret place of 
thunder " (*' My thunder-covert^^ Cheyne). That expres- 
sion is generally taken to refer to the pillar of cloud, but 
seems more naturally to be regarded as alluding to the 
thick darkness, in which God was shrouded on Sinai, 
when He spoke His law amid thunderings and lightnings. 
" The proving at the waters of Meribah " is, according 
to the connection and in harmony with Exod. xvii. 6, 
to be regarded as a benefit. " It was meant to serve the 
purpose of binding Israel still more closely to its God " 
(Baethgen). It is usually assumed that, in this reference 
to " the waters of Meribah," the two similar incidents 
of the miraculous supply of water — one of which occurred 
near the beginning of the forty years in the desert, at 
** Massah and Meribah " (Exod. xvii. 7), and the other 
at "the waters of Meribah," near Kadesh, in the 
fortieth year — have been blended, or, as Cheyne says, 
"confused." But there is no need to suppose that 


there is any confusion, for the words of the psalm will 
apply to the latter miracle as well as to the former, and, 
if the former clause refers to the manifestations at 
Sinai, the selection of an incident at nearly the end 
of the wilderness period is natural. The whole stretch 
of forty years is thereby declared to have been marked 
by continuous Divine care. The Exodus was begun, 
continued, and ended amid tokens of His watchful love. 
The Selah bids the listener meditate on that prolonged 

That retrospect next becomes the foundation of a 
Divine exhortation to the people, which is to be regarded 
as spoken originally to Israel in the wilderness, as 
ver. 1 1 shows. Perowne well designates these verses 
(8-10) '' a discourse within a discourse." They put 
into words the meaning of the wilderness experience, 
and sum up the laws spoken on Sinai, which they 
in part repeat. The purpose of God's lavish benefits 
was to bind Israel to Himself. ** Hear, My people," 
reminds us of Deut. v. i, vi. 4. " I will bear witness 
to thee " here means rather solemn warning to, than 
testifying against, the person addressed. With infinite 
pathos, the tone of the Divine Speaker changes from 
that of authority to pleading and the utterance of a 
yearning wish, like a sigh. " Would that thou wouldest 
hearken I " God desires nothing so earnestly as that ; 
but His Divine desire is tragically and mysteriously 
foiled. The awful human power of resisting His voice 
and of making His efforts vain, the still more awful 
fact of the exercise of that power, were clear before 
the psalmist, whose daring anthropopathy teaches a 
•^'tp lesson, and warns us against supposing that men 
ave to do with an impassive Deity. That wonderful 
.iterance of Divine wish is almost a parenthesis. It 

Ixxxi.] THE PSALMS 421 

gives a moment's glimpse into the heart of God, and 
then the tone of command is resumed. ** In ver. 9 the 
keynote of the revelation of the law from Sinai is 
given ; the fundamental command which opens the 
Decalogue demanded fidelity towards Jehovah, and for- 
bade idolatry, as the sin of sins " (Delitzsch). The 
reason for exclusive devotion to God is based in ver. 10, 
as in Exod. xx. 2, the fundamental passage, on His 
act of deliverance, not on His sole Divinity. A theo- 
retic Monotheism would be cold ; the consciousness 
of benefits received from One Hand alone is the only 
key that will unlock a heart's exclusive devotion and 
lay it at His feet. And just as the commandment to 
worship God alone is founded on His unaided delivering 
might and love, so it is followed by the promise that 
such exclusive adhesion to Him will secure the fulfil- 
ment of the boldest wishes, and the satisfying of the 
most clamant or hungry desires. ** Open wide thy 
mouth, and I will fill it." It is folly to go to strange 
gods for the supply of needs, when God is able to give 
all that every man can wish. We may be well content 
to cleave to Him alone, since He alone is more than 
enough for each and for all. Why should they waste 
time and strength in seeking for supplies from many, 
who can find all they need in One ? They who put 
Him to the proof, and find Him enough, will have, in 
their experience of His sufficiency, a charm to protect 
them from all vagrant desire to "go further and fare 
worse." The best defence against temptations to stray 
from God is the possession by experience, of His rich 
gifts that meet all desires. That great saying teaches, 
too, that God's bestowals are practically measured by 
men's capacity and desire. The ultimate limit of them 
is His own limitless grace ; but the working limit in 


each individual is the individual's receptivity, of which 
his expectancy and desire are determining factors. 

In vv. II, 12, the Divine Voice laments the failure 
of benefits and commandments and promises to win 
Israel to God. There is a world of baffled tenderness 
and almost wondering rebuke in the designation of the 
rebels as '' My people." It would have been no cause 
of astonishment if other nations had not listened ; but 
that the tribes bound by so many kindnesses should 
have been deaf is a sad marvel. Who should listen 
to '^ My voice " if *^ My people " do not ? The penalty 
of not yielding to God is to be left unyielding. The 
worst punishment of sin is the prolongation and con- 
sequent intensifying of the sin. A heart that wilfully 
closes itself against God's pleadings brings on itself 
the nemesis, that it becomes incapable of opening, as a 
self-torturing Hindoo fakir may clench his fist so long, 
that at last his muscles lose their power, and it remains 
shut for his lifetime. The issue of such " stubborn- 
ness" is walking in their own counsels, the practical 
life being regulated entirely by self-originated and 
God-forgetting dictates of prudence or inclination. He 
who will not have the Divine Guide has to grope his way 
as well as he can. There is no worse fate for a man 
than to be allowed to do as he chooses. " The ditch," 
sooner or later, receives the man who lets his active 
powers, which are in themselves blind, be led by his 
understanding, which he has himself blinded by for- 
bidding it to look to the One Light of Life. 

In ver. 13 the Divine Voice turns to address the 
joyous crowd of festal worshippers, exhorting them to 
that obedience which is the true keeping of the feast, 
and holding forth bright promises of the temporal 
blessings which, in accordance with the fundamental 

Ixxxi.] THE PSALMS 423 

conditions of Israel's prosperity, should follow thereon. 
The sad picture of ancient rebellion just drawn in- 
fluences the language in this verse, in which ^' My 
people," " hearken," and " walk " recur. The antithesis 
to walking in one's own counsels is walking in God's 
ways, suppressing native stubbornness, and becoming 
docile to His guidance. The highest blessedness of 
man is to have a will submissive to God's will, and to 
carry out that submission in all details of life. Self- 
engineered paths are always hard, and, if pursued to 
the end, lead into the dark. The listening heart will 
not lack guidance, and obedient feet will find God's 
way the way of peace which steadily climbs to unfading 

The blessings attached in the psalm to such con- 
formity with God's will are of an external kind, as was 
to be expected at the Old Testament stage of reve- 
lation. They are mainly two — victory and abundance. 
But the precise application of ver. 1 5 3 is doubtful. 
Whose *^ time " is to " endure for ever " ? There is 
much to be said in favour of the translation " that so 
their time might endure for ever," as Cheyne renders, 
and for understanding it, as he does, as referring to 
the enemies who yield themselves to God, in order 
that they ''might be a never-exhausted people." But 
to bring in the purpose of the enemies' submission 
is somewhat irrelevant, and the clause is probably 
best taken to promise length of days to Israel. 
In ver. 16 the sudden change of persons in a is 
singular, and, according to the existing vocalisation, 
there is an equally sudden change of tenses, which 
induces Delitzsch and others to take the verse as 
recurring to historical retrospect. The change to 
the third person is probably occasioned, as Hupfeld 


suggests, by the preceding naming of Jehovah, or 
may have been due to an error. Such sudden changes 
are more admissible in Hebrew than with us, and are 
very easily accounted for, when God is represented as 
speaking. The momentary emergence of the psalmist's 
personality would lead him to say " He," and the 
renewed sense of being but the echo of the Divine Voice 
would lead to the recurrence to the " I," in which God 
speaks directly. The words are best taken as in line 
with the other hypothetical promises in the preceding 
verses. The whole verse looks back to Deut. xxxii. 
13, 14. " Honey from the rock" is not a natural pro- 
duct; but, as Hupfeld says, the parallel "oil out of the 
flinty rock," which follows in Deuteronomy, shows that 
** we are here, not on the ground of the actual, but of 
the ideal," and that the expression is a hyperbole for 
incomparable abundance. Those who hearken to God's 
voice will have all desires satisfied and needs supplied. 
They will find furtherance in hindrances, fertility in 
barrenness; rocks will drop honey and stones will 
become bread. 


1 God stands in the congregation of God, 
In the midst of the gods He judges. 

2 How long will ye judge injustice, 

And accept the persons of wicked men ? Selah. 

3 Right the weak and the orphan, 
Vindicate the afflicted and the poor. 

4 Rescue the weak and needy, 

From the hand of the wicked deliver [them], 

5 They know not, they understand not, 
In darkness they walk to and fro. 

All the foundations of the earth totter, 

6 I myself have said, Ye are gods, 
And sons of the Most High are ye all. 

7 Surely like men shall ye die. 

And like one of the princes shall ye fall. 

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth. 

For Thou, Thou shalt inherit all the nations. 

IN Psalm 1. God is represented as gathering His 
people together to be judged ; in this psalm He 
has gathered them together for His judgment on judges. 
The former psalm begins at an earlier point of the 
great Cause than this one does. In it, unnamed 
messengers go forth to summons the nation ; in this, 
the first verse shows us the assembled congregation, 
the accused, and the Divine Judge standing in "the 
midst ' in statuesque immobility. An awe-inspiring 



pause intervenes, and then the silence is broken by 
a mighty voice of reproof and admonition (vv. 2-4). 
The speaker may be the psalmist, but the grand image 
of God as judging loses much of its solemnity and 
appropriateness, unless these stern rebukes and the 
following verses till the end of ver. 7 are regarded 
as His voice of judgment. Ver. 5 follows these rebukes 
with '* an indignant aside from the Judge " (Cheyne), 
evoked by obstinate deafness to His words; and 
vv. 6, 7, pronounce the fatal sentence on the accused, 
who are condemned by their own refusal to hearken 
to Divine remonstrances. Then, in ver. 8, after a pause 
like that which preceded God's voice, the psalmist, 
who has been a silent spectator, prays that what he 
has heard in the inward ear, and seen with the inward 
eye, may be done before the nations of the world, since 
it all belongs to Him by right. 

The scene pictured in ver. i has been variously 
interpreted. ** The congregation of God " is most 
naturally understood according to the parallel in 
Psalm 1., and the familiar phrase "the congregation 
of Israel " as being the assembled nation. Its inter- 
pretation and that of the "gods" who are judged hang 
together. If the assembly is the nation, the persons 
at the bar can scarcely be other than those who have 
exercised injustice on the nation. If, on the other 
hand, the " gods " are ideal or real angelic beings, the 
assembly will necessarily be a heavenly one. The use of 
the expressions " The congregation of Jehovah " (Numb, 
xxvii. 17, xxxi. 16; Josh. xxii. 16, 17) and "Thy 
congregation " (Psalm Ixxiv. 2) makes the former inter- 
pretation the more natural, and therefore exercises some 
influence in determining the meaning of the other 
disputed word. The interpretation of " gods " as 

Ixxxii.] THE PSALMS 427 

angels is maintained by Hupfeld ; and Bleek, followed 
by Cheyne, goes the full length of regarding them 
as patron angels of the nations. But, as Baethgen 
says, ^* that angels should be punished with death 
is a thought which lies utterly beyond the Old Testa- 
ment sphere of representation," and the incongruity 
can hardly be reckoned to be removed by Cheyne's 
remark, that, since angels are in other places repre- 
sented as punished, "it is only a step further " to say 
that they are punished with death. If, however, these 
** gods " are earthly rulers, the question still remains 
whether they are Jewish or foreign judges ? The 
latter opinion is adopted chiefly on the ground of the 
reference in ver. 8 to a world-embracing judicial act, 
which, however, by no means compels its acceptance, 
since it is entirely in accordance with the manner ot 
psalmists to recognise in partial acts of Divine retri- 
bution the operation in miniature of the same Divine 
power, which will one day set right all wrongs, and, 
on occasion of the smaller manifestation of Divine 
righteousness, to pray for a universal judgment. There 
would be little propriety in summoning the national 
assembly to behold judgments wrought on foreign 
rulers, unless these alien oppressors were afflicting 
Israel, of which there is no sure indications in the 
psalm. The various expressions for the afflicted in 
vv. 3, 4, are taken, by the supporters of the view that 
the judges are foreigners, to mean the whole nation as 
it groaned under their oppression, but there is nothing 
to show that they do not rather refer to the helpless in 

Our Lord's reference to ver. 6 in John x. 34-38 is, 
by the present writer, accepted as authoritatively 
settling both the meaning and the ground of the 


remarkable name of ** gods " for human judges. It 
does not need that we should settle the mystery of 
His emptying Himself, or trace the limits of His human 
knowledge, in order to be sure that He spoke truth 
with authority, when He spoke on such a subject as 
His own Divine nature, and the analogies and contrasts 
between it and the highest human authorities. His 
whole argument is worthless, unless the " gods " in the 
psalm are men. He tells us why that august title is 
applied to them — namely, because to them ^* the word 
of God came." They were recipients of a Divine word, 
constituting them in their office ; and, in so far as they 
discharged its duties, their decrees were God's word 
ministered by them. That is especially true in a 
theocratic state such as Israel, where the rulers are, 
in a direct way, God's vicegerents, clothed by Him 
with delegated authority, which they exercise under 
His control. But it is also true about all who are 
set in similar positions elsewhere. The office is sacred, 
whatever its holders are. 

The contents of the psalm need little remark. In 
vv. 2-4 God speaks in stern upbraiding and command. 
The abrupt pealing forth of the Divine Voice, without 
any statement of who speaks, is extremely dramatic 
and impressive. The judgment hall is filled with a 
hushed crowd. No herald is needed to proclaim silence. 
Strained expectance sits on every ear. Then the silence 
is broken. These authoritative accents can come but 
from one speaker. The crimes rebuked are those to 
which rulers, in such a state of society as was in Israel, 
are especially prone, and such as must have been well- 
nigh universal at the time of the psalmist. They were 
no imaginary evils against which these sharp arrows 
were launched. These princes were like those gibbeted 

Ixxxii.] THE PSALMS 429 

for ever in Isa. i. — loving gifts and following after 
rewards, murderers rather than judges, and fitter to be 
" rulers of Sodom " than of God's city. They had pros- 
tituted their office by injustice, had favoured the rich 
and neglected the poor, had been deaf to the cry of the 
helpless, had steeled their hearts against the miseries 
of the afflicted, and left them to perish in the gripe of 
the wicked. Such is the indictment. Does it sound 
applicable to angels ? 

For a moment the Divine Voice pauses. Will its 
tones reach any consciences ? No. There is no sign 
of contrition among the judges, who are thus solemnly 
being judged. Therefore God speaks again, as if 
wondering, grieved, and indignant " at the blindness of 
their hearts," as His Son was when His words met the 
same reception from the same class. Ver. 5 might 
almost be called a Divine lament over human im- 
penitence, ere the Voice swells into the fatal sentence. 
One remembers Christ's tears, as He looked across the 
valley to the city glittering in the morning sun. His 
tears did not hinder His pronouncing its doom ; nor 
did His pronouncing its doom hinder His tears. These 
judges were without knowledge. They walked in 
darkness, because they walked in selfishness, and never 
thought of God's judgment. Their gait was insolent, 
as the form of the word " walk to and fro " implies. 
And, since they who were set to be God's representa- 
tives on earth, and to show some gleam of His justice 
and compassion, were ministers of injustice and vice- 
gerents of evil, fostering what they should have crushed, 
and crushing whom they should have fostered, the 
foundations of society were shaken, and, unless these 
were swept away, it would be dissolved into chaos. 
Therefore the sentence must fall, as it does in vv. 6, 7, 


The grant of dignity is withdrawn. They are stripped 
of their honours, as a soldier of his uniform before he 
is driven from his corps. The judge's robe, which they 
have smirched, is plucked off their shoulders, and they 
stand as common men. 


1 O God, let there be no rest to Thee, 

Be not dumb, and keep not still, O God. 

2 For, behold. Thy enemies make a tumult, 
And they who hate Thee lift up the head. 

3 Against Thy people they make a crafty plot, 
And consult together against Thy hidden ones. 

4 They say. Come, and let us cut them off from [being] a 

And let the name of Israel be remembered no more. 

5 For they consult together with one heart, 
Against Thee they make a league : 

6 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, 
Moab and the Hagarenes, 

7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, 
Philistia with the dwellers in Tyre ; 

8 Asshur also has joined himself to them, 

They have become an arm to the children of Lot. Selah. 

9 Do Thou to them as [to] Midian, 

As [to] Sisera, [to] Jabin at the brook Kishon, 

10 [Who] were destroyed at Endor, 
[Who] became manure for the land. 

1 1 Make them, their nobles, like Oreb and like Zeeb, 
And like Zebah and like Zalmunnah all their princes, 

12 Who say. Let us take for a possession to ourselves 
The habitations of God. 

13 My God, make them like a whirl of dust, 
Like stubble before the wind, 

14 Like fire [that] burns [the] forest, 

And like flame [that] scorches [the] mountaioti^ 


15 So pursue them with Thy storm, 

And with Thy tempest strike them with panic. 

16 Fill their face with dishonour, 

That they may seek Thy name, Jehovan. 

17 Let them be ashamed and panic-struck for ever, 
And let them be abashed and perish ; 

18 And let them know that Thou, [even] Thy name, Jehovah, 

Art the Most High over all the earth. 

THIS psalm is a cry for help against a world 
in arms. The failure of all attempts to point 
to a period when all the allies here represented as 
confederate against Israel were or could have been 
united in assailing it, inclines one to suppose that the 
enumeration of enemies is not history, but poetic ideal- 
isation. The psalm would then be, not the memorial 
of a fact, but the expression of the standing relation 
between Israel and the outlying heathendom. The 
singer masses together ancient and modern foes of 
diverse nationalities and mutual animosities, and pictures 
them as burying their enmities and bridging their 
separations, and all animated by one fell hatred to 
the Dove of God, which sits innocent and helpless in 
the midst of them. There are weighty objections to 
this view; but no other is free from difficulties even 
more considerable. There are two theories which 
divide the suffrages of commentators. The usual 
assignment of date is to the league against Jehoshaphat 
recorded in 2 Chron. xx. But it is hard to find that 
comparatively small local confederacy of three peoples 
in the wide-reaching alliance described in the psalm. 
Chronicles enumerates the members of the league as 
being " the children of Moab and the children of Ammon, 
and with them some of the Ammonites/' which last 

Ixxxiii.] THE PSALMS 433 

unmeaning designation should be read, as in the LXX., 
"the Me'unim," and adds to these Edom (2 Chron. 
XX. 2, corrected text). Even if the contention of the 
advocates of this date for the psalm is admitted, and 
'^ the Me'unim " are taken to include the Arab tribes, 
whom the psalmist calls Ishmaelites and Hagarenes, 
there remains the fact that he names also Philistia, 
Amalek, Tyre, and Asshur, none of whom is concerned 
in the alliance against Jehoshaphat. It was, in fact, 
confined to eastern and south-eastern nations, with 
whom distant western tribes could have no common 
interest. Nor is the other view of the circumstances 
underlying the psalm free from difficulty. It advocates 
a Maccabean date. In l Mace. v. it is recorded that the 
nations round about were enraged at the restoration 
of the altar and dedication of the Temple after its 
pollution by Antiochus Epiphanes, and were ready to 
break out in hostility. Cheyne points to the occurrence 
in Maccabees of six of the ten names mentioned in the 
psalm. But of the four not mentioned, two are Amalek 
and Asshur, both of which had been blotted out of the 
roll of nations long before the Maccabees* era. " The 
mention of Amalek," says Cheyne, '*is half-Haggadic, 
half-antiquarian." But what should Haggadic or 
antiquarian elements do in such a list ? Asshur is 
explained on this hypothesis as meaning Syria, which 
is very doubtful, and, even if admitted, leaves unsolved 
the difficulty that the subordinate place occupied by the 
nation in question would not correspond to the import- 
ance of Syria in the time of the Maccabees. Of the 
two theories, the second is the more probable, but 
neither is satisfactory ; and the view already stated, 
that the psalm does not refer to any actual alliance, 
seems to the present writer the most probable. The 

VOL. II. 2Z 


world is up in arms against God's people ; and what 
weapon has Israel? Nothing but prayer. 

The psalm naturally falls into two parts, separated 
by Selah, of which the first (vv. i-8) describes Israel's 
extremity, and the second (vv. 9-18) is its supplication. 

The psalmist begins with earnest invocation of God's 
help, beseeching Him to break His apparent inactivity 
and silence. " Let there be no rest to Thee " is like 
Isa. Ixii. 6. God seems passive. It needs but His 
Voice to break the dreary silence, and the foes will be 
scattered. And there is strong reason for His inter- 
vention, for they are His enemies, who riot and roar 
like the hoarse chafing of an angry sea, for so the word 
rendered ''make a tumult" implies (Psalm xlvi. 3). 
It is "Thy people" who are the object of their crafty 
conspiracy, and it is implied that these are thus hated 
because they are God's people. Israel's prerogative, 
which evokes the heathen's rage, is the ground of 
Israel's confidence and the plea urged to God by it. 
Are we not Thy " hidden ones " ? And shall a hostile 
world be able to pluck us from our safe hiding-place 
in the hollow of Thy hand ? The idea of preciousness, 
as well as that of protection, is included in the word. 
Men store their treasures in secret places ; God hides 
His treasures in the " secret of His face," the " glorious 
privacy of light" inaccessible. How vain are the 
plotters' whisperings against such a people I 

The conspiracy has for its aim nothing short of 
blotting out the national existence and the very name 
of Israel. It is therefore high-handed opposition to 
God's counsel, and the confederacy is against Him. 
The true antagonists are, not Israel and the world, but 
God and the world. Calmness, courage, and confidence 
spring in the heart with such thoughts. They who 

Ixxxiii.] THE PSALMS 435 

can feel that they are hid in God may look out, as from 
a safe islet on the wildest seas, and fear nothing. And 
all who will may hide in Him. 

The enumeration of the confederates in vv. 6-^ 
groups together peoples who probably were never 
really united for any common end. Hatred is a very 
potent cement, and the most discordant elements may 
be fused together in the fire of a common animosity. 
What a motley assemblage is here I What could bring 
together in one company Ishmaelites and Tyrians 
Moab and Asshur ? The first seven names in the list 
of allies had their seats to the east and south-east o 
Palestine. Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Amalek were 
ancestral foes, the last of which had been destroyed 
in the time of Hezekiah (i Chron. iv. 43). The mention 
of descendants of Ishmael and Hagar, nomad Arab 
tribes to the south and east, recalls their ancestors* 
expulsion from the patriarchal family. Gebal is pro- 
bably the mountainous region to the south of the Dead 
Sea. Then the psalmist turns to the west, to Philistia, 
the ancient foe, and Tyre, " the two peoples of the 
Mediterranean coast, which also appear in Amos (ch. i. ; 
cf. Joel iii.) as making common cause with the Edomites 
against Israel " (Delitzsch). Asshur brings up the rear 
— a strange post for it to occupy, to be reduced to be 
an auxiliary to " the children of Lot," i.e. Moab and 
Ammon. The ideal character of this muster-roll is 
supported by this singular inferiority of position, as 
well as by the composition of the allied force, and by 
the allusion to the shameful origin of the two leading 
peoples, which is the only reference to Lot besides the 
narrative in Genesis. 

The confederacy is formidable, but the psalmist does 
not enumerate its members merely in order to emphasise 


Israel's danger. He is contrasting this miscellaneous 
conglomeration of many peoples with the Almighty 
One, against whom they are vainly banded. Faith 
can look without a tremor on serried battalions of 
enemies, knowing that one poor man, with God at his 
back, outnumbers them all. Let them come from east 
and west, south and north^ and close round Israel ; 
God alone is mightier than they. So, after a pause 
marked by Selah, in which there is time to let the 
thought of the multitudinous enemies sink into the 
soul, the psalm passes into prayer, which throbs with 
confident assurance and anticipatory triumph. The 
singer recalls ancient victories, and prays for their 
repetition. To him, as to every devout man, to-day's 
exigencies are as sure of Divine help as any yesterday's 
were, and what God has done is pledge and specimen 
of what He is doing and will do. The battle is left 
to be waged by Him alone. The psalmist does not 
seem to think of Israel's drawing sword, but rather 
that it should stand still and see God fighting for it. 
The victory of Gideon over Midian, to which Isaiah 
also refers as the very type of complete conquest 
(Isa. ix. 3), is named first, but thronging memories 
drive it out of the singer's mind for a moment, while 
he goes back to the other crushing defeat of Jabin and 
Sisera at the hands of Barak and Deborah (Judg. iv., v.). 
He adds a detail to the narrative in Judges, when he 
localises the defeat at Endor, which lies on the eastern 
edge of the great plain of Esdraelon. In ver. 11 he 
returns to his first example of defeat — the slaughter of 
Midian by Gideon. Oreb (raven) and Zeeb (wolf) were 
in command of the Midianites, and were killed by the 
Ephraimites in the retreat. Zebah and Zalmunnah 
were kings of Midian, and fell by Gideon's own hand 

Ixxxiii.] THE PSALMS 437 

(Judg. viii. 21). The psalmist bases his prayer for 
such a dread fate for the foes on their insolent purpose 
and sacrilegious purpose of making the dwellings (or, 
possibly, the pastures) of God their own property. 
Not because the land and its peaceful homes belonged 
to the suppliant and his nation, but because they were 
God's, does he thus pray. The enemies had drawn 
the sword ; it was permissible to pray that they might 
fall by the sword, or by some Divine intervention, 
since such was the only way of defeating their God- 
insulting plans. 

The psalm rises to high poetic fervour and imagina- 
tive beauty in the terrible petitions of vv. 13-16. The 
word rendered '^ whirling dust " in ver. 1 3 is somewhat 
doubtful. It literally means a rolling things but what 
particular thing of the sort is difficult to determine. 
The reference is perhaps to " spherical masses of dry 
weeds which course over the plains." Thomson ('^ Land 
and Book," 1870, p. 563) suggests the wild artichoke, 
which, when ripe, forms a globe of about a foot in 
diameter. " In autumn the branches become dry and 
as light as a feather, the parent stem breaks off at the 
ground, and the wind carries these vegetable globes 
whithersoever it pleaseth. At the proper season thou- 
sands of them come scudding over the plain, rolling, 
leaping, bounding." So understood, the clause would 
form a complete parallel with the next, which compares 
the fleeing foe to stubble, not, of course, rooted, but 
loose and whirled before the wind. The metaphor of 
ver. 14 is highly poetic, likening the flight of the foe 
to the swift rush of a forest fire, which licks up (for so 
the word rendered scorches means) the woods on the 
hillsides, and leaves a bare, blackened space. Still 
more terrible is the petition in ver. 15, which asks 


that God Himself should chase the flying remnants, 
and beat them down, helpless and panic-striken, with 
storm and hurricane, as He did the other confederacy 
of Canaanitish kings, when they fled down the pass of 
Beth-Horon, and ^'Jehovah cast down great stones on 
them from heaven" (Josh. x. lO, li). 

But there is a deeper desire in the psalmist's heart 
than the enemies' destruction. He wishes that they 
should be turned into God's friends, and he wishes for 
their chastisement as the means to that end. "That 
they may seek Thy face, Jehovah," is the sum of his 
aspirations, as it is the inmost meaning of God's 
punitive acts. The end of the judgment of the world, 
which is continually going on by means of the history 
of the world, is none other than what this psalmist 
contemplated as the end of the defeat of that confederacy 
of God's enemies — that rebels should seek His face, 
not in enforced submission, but with true desire to 
sun themselves in its light, and with heart-felt acknow- 
ledgment of His Name as supreme through all the 
earth. The thought of God as standing alone in His 
majestic omnipotence, while a world is vainly arrayed 
against Him, which we have traced in vv. 5-7, is 
prominent in the close of the psalm. The language of 
ver. 18 is somewhat broken, but its purport is plain, 
and its thought is all the more impressive for the 
irregularity of construction. God alone is the Most 
High. He is revealed to men by His Name. It stands 
alone, as He in His nature does. The highest good 
of men is to know that that sovereign Name is unique 
and high above all creatures, hostile or obedient. 
Such knowledge is God's aim in punishment and 
blessing. Its universal extension must be the deepest 
wish of all who have for themselves learned how strong 

Ixxxiii.] THE PSALMS 439 

a fortress against a world in arms that Name is ; and 
their desires for the foes of God and themselves are not 
in harmony with God's heart, nor with this psalmist's 
song, unless they are, that His enemies may be led, by 
salutary defeat of their enterprises and experience of 
the weight of God's hand, to bow, in loving obedience, 
low before the Name which, whether they recognise 
the fact or not, is high above all the earth. 


1 How lovely are Thy dwellings, 
Jehovah of Hosts ! 

2 My soul longs, yea, even languishes, for the courts of Jehovah, 
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 

3 Yea, the sparrow has found a house. 

And the swallow a nest for herself, vwdiere she lays her young. 
Thine altars, Jehovah of Hosts, 
My King and my God. 

4 Blessed they that dwell in Thy house I 
They will be still praising Thee. Selah. 

5 Blessed the man whose strength is in The^ 
In whose heart are the ways ! 

6 [Who] passing through the valley of weeping make it a place 

of fountains, 
Yea, the early rain covers it with blessings, 

7 They go from strength to strength. 
Each appears before God in Zion. 

8 Jehovah, God of Hosts, hear my prayer, 
Give, ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. 

9 [Thou], our shield, behold, O God, 

And look upon the face of Thine anointed. 

10 For better is a day in Thy courts than a thousand, 
Rather would I lie on the threshold in the house of my God, 
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 

1 1 For Jehovah God is sun and shield, 
Grace and glory Jehovah gives. 

No good does He deny to them that walk in integrity, 

12 Jehovah of Hosts, 

Blessed the man that trusts in Thee 1 

THE same longing for and delight in the sanctuary 
which found pathetic expression in Psalms xlii,, 
xliiL, inspire this psalm. Like these, it is ascribed in 


Ixxxiv.] THE PSALMS 441 

the superscription to the Korachites, whose office of 
door-keepers in the Temple seems alluded to in ver. 10. 
To infer, however, identity of authorship from similarity 
of tone is hazardous. The differences are as obvious 
as the resemblances. As Cheyne well says, "the 
notes of the singer of Psalms xlii., xliii., are here trans- 
posed into a different key. It is still ' Te saluto, te 
suspiro,' but no longer * De longinquo te saluto ' (to 
quote Hildebert)." The longings after God and the 
sanctuary, in the first part of the psalm, do not 
necessarily imply exile from the latter, for they may be 
felt when we are nearest to Him, and are, in fact, an 
element in that nearness. It is profitless to inquire 
what were the singer's circumstances. He expresses 
the perennial emotions of devout souls, and his words 
are as enduring and as universal as the aspirations 
which they so perfectly express. No doubt the psalm 
identifies enjoyment of God's presence with the worship 
of the visible sanctuary more closely than we have 
to do, but the true object of its longing is God, and 
so long as spirit is tied to body the most spiritual 
worship will be tied to form. The psalm may serve 
as a warning against premature attempts to dispense 
with outward aids to inward communion. 

It is divided into three parts by the Selahs. The 
last verse of the first part prepares the way for the 
first of the second, by sounding the note of " Blessed 
they," etc., which is prolonged in ver. 5,. The last 
verse of the second part (ver. 8) similarly prepares 
for the first of the third (ver. 9) by beginning the 
prayer which is prolonged there. In each part there 
is a verse pronouncing blessing on Jehovah's wor- 
shippers, and the variation in the designations of these 
gives the key to the progress of thought in the psalm. 


First comes the blessing on those who dwell in God's 
house (ver. 4), and that abiding is the theme of the 
first part. The description of those who are thus 
blessed is changed, in the second strophe, to *' those 
in whose heart are the [pilgrim] ways," and the joys 
of the progress of the soul towards God are the theme 
of that strophe. Finally, for dwelling in and journey- 
ing towards the sanctuary is substituted the plain 
designation of ** the man that trusts in Thee," which 
trust is the impulse to following after God and the 
condition of dwelling with Him ; and its joys are the 
theme of the third part. 

The man who thus interpreted his own psalm had 
no unworthy conception of the relation between out- 
ward nearness to the sanctuary, and inward com- 
munion with the God who dwelt there. The psalmist's 
yearning for the Temple was occasioned by his longing 
for God. It was God's presence there which gave it 
all its beauty. Because they were *' Thy tabernacles," 
he felt them to be lovely and lovable, for the word 
implies both. The abrupt exclamation beginning the 
psalm is the breaking into speech of thought which 
had long increased itself in silence. The intensity 
of his desires is expressed very strikingly by two 
words, of which the former (longs) literally means 
grows pale^ and the latter failsy or is consumed. His 
whole being, body and spirit, is one cry for the living 
God. The word rendered " cry out " is usuall^y 
employed for the shrill cry of joy, and that meaning 
is by many retained here. But the cognate noun is 
not infrequently employed for any loud or high-pitched 
call, especially for fervent prayer (Psalm Ixxxviii. 2), 
and it is better to suppose that this clause expresses 
emotion substantially parallel to that of the former 

Ixxxiv.] THE PSALMS 443 

one, than that it makes a contrast to it. "The living 
God " is an expression only found in Psalm xlii., and 
is one of the points of resemblance between it and 
this psalm. That Name is more than a contrast with 
the gods of the heathen. It lays bare the reason for 
the psalmist's longings. By communion with Him 
who possesses life in its fulness, and is its fountain 
for all that live, he will draw supplies of that '* life 
whereof our veins are scant." Nothing short of a real, 
living Person can slake the immortal thirst of the soul, 
made after God's own life, and restless till it rests 
in Him. The surface current of this singer's desires 
ran towards the sanctuary ; the depth of them set 
towards God ; and, for the stage of revelation at which 
he stood, the deeper was best satisfied through the 
satisfaction of the more superficial. The one is 
modified by the progress of Christian enlightenment, 
but the other remains eternally the same. Alas that 
the longings of Christian souls for fellowship with 
God should be so tepid, as compared with the sacred 
passion of desire which has found imperishable utter- 
ance in these glowing and most sincere words I 

Ver. 3 has been felt to present grammatical diffi- 
culties, which need not detain us here. The easiest 
explanation is that the happy, winged creatures who 
have found resting-places are contrasted by the psalmist 
with himself, seeking, homeless amid creation, for his 
haven of repose. We have to complete the somewhat 
fragmentary words with some supplement before 
" Thine altars," such as " So would I find," or the like. 
To suppose that he represents the swallows as actually 
nesting on the altar is impossible, and, if the latter 
clauses are taken to describe the places where the 
birds housed and bred, there is nothing to suggest the 


purpose for which the reference to them is introduced. 
If, on the other hand, the poet looks with a poet's eye 
on these lower creatures at rest in secure shelters, and 
longs to be like them, in his repose in the home which 
his deeper wants make necessary for him, a noble 
thought is expressed with adequate poetic beauty. 
*' Foxes have holes, and birds of the air roosting-places, 
but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." 
All creatures find environment suited to their need, and 
are at rest in it , man walks like a stranger on earth, 
and restlessly seeks for rest. Where but in God is 
it to be found ? Who that seeks it in Him shall fail 
to find it ? What their nests are to the swallows, God 
is to man. The solemnity of the direct address to God 
at the close of ver. 3 would be out of place if the altar 
were the dwelling of the birds, but is entirely natural if 
the psalmist is thinking of the Temple as the home of 
his spirit. By the accumulation of sacred and dear 
names, and by the lovingly reiterated " my," which 
claims personal relation to God, he deepens his con- 
viction of the blessedness which would be his, were he 
in that abode of his heart, and lingeringly tells his 
riches, as a miser might delight to count his gold, piece 
by piece. 

The first part closes with an exclamation which 
gathers into one all-expressive word the joy of com- 
munion with God. They who have it are '' blessed," 
with something more sacred and lasting than happiness, 
with something deeper and more tranquil than joy, even 
with a calm delight, not altogether unlike the still, yet 
not stagnant, rest of supreme fehcity which fills the life 
of the living and ever-blessed God. That thought is 
prolonged by the music. 

The second strophe (vv. 5-8) is knit to the first, 

Ixxxiv.] THE PSALMS 445 

chain-wise, by taking up again the closing strain, 
" Blessed the man 1 " But it turns the blessedness in 
another direction. Not only are they blessed who have 
found their rest in God, but so also are they who are 
seeking it. The goal is sweet, but scarcely less sweet 
are the steps towards it. The fruition of God has 
delights beyond all that earth can give, but the desire 
after Him, too, has delights of its own. The expe- 
riences of the soul seeking God in His sanctuary are 
here cast into the image of pilgrim bands going up to 
the Temple. There may be local allusions in the de- 
tails. The " ways " in ver. 5 are the pilgrims' paths 
to the sanctuary. Hupfeld calls the reading " ways " 
senseless, and would substitute " trust " ; but such a 
change is unnecessary, and tasteless. The condensed 
expression is not too condensed to be intelligible, and 
beautifully describes the true pilgrim spirit. They who 
are touched with that desire which impels men to 
" seek a better country, that is an heavenly," and to take 
flight from Time's vanities to the bosom of God, have 
ever " the ways " in their hearts. They count the 
moments lost during which they linger, or are anywhere 
but on the road. Amid calls of lower duties and dis- 
tractions of many sorts, their desires turn to the path 
to God. Like some nomads brought into city life, they 
are always longing to escape. The caged eagle sits on 
the highest point of his prison, and looks with filmed 
eye to the free heavens. Hearts that long for God 
have an irrepressible instinct stinging them to ever-new 
attainments. The consciousness of " not having already 
attained " is no pain, when the hope of attaining is 
strong. Rather, the very blessedness of life lies in the 
sense of present imperfection, the effort for complete- 
ness, and the assurance of reaching it. 


Ver. 6 is highly imaginative and profoundly true. Il 
a man has *^ the ways " in his heart, he will pass 
through ** the valley of weeping/' and turn it into a 
*' place of fountains." His very tears will fill the wells. 
Sorrow borne as a help to pilgrimage changes into 
joy and refreshment. The remembrance ot past grief 
nourishes the soul which is aspiring to God. God 
puts our tears into His bottle ; we lose the benefit 
of them, and fail to discern their true intent, unless 
we gather them into a well, which may refresh us 
in many a weary hour thereafter. If we do, there will 
be another source of fertility, plentifully poured out 
upon our life's path. ** The early rain covers it with 
blessings." Heaven-descended gifts will not be want- 
ing, nor the smiling harvests which they quicken and 
mature. God meets the pilgrims' love and faith with 
gently falling influences, which bring forth rich fruit. 
Trials borne aright bring down fresh bestowments of 
power for fruitful service. Thus possessed of a charm 
which transforms grief, and recipients of strength 
from on high, the pilgrims are not tired by travel, as 
others are, but grow stronger day by day, and their 
progressive increase in vigour is a pledge that they 
will joyously reach their journey's end, and stand in 
the courts of the Lord's house. The seekers after 
God are superior to the law of decay. It may affect 
their physical powers, but they are borne up by an 
unfulfilled and certain hope, and reinvigorated by con- 
tinual supplies from above; and therefore, though in 
their bodily frame they, like other men, faint and grow 
weary, they shall not utterly fail, but, waiting on Jeho- 
vah, " will renew their strength." The fabled fountain 
of perpetual youth rises at the foot of God's throne, 
and its waters flow to meet those who journey thither. 

IxKxiv.] THE PSALMS 447 

Such are the elements of the blessedness of those 
who seek God's presence ; and with that great promise 
of certain finding of the good and the God whom they 
seek, the description and the strophe properly ends. 
But just as the first part prepared the way for the 
second, so the second does for the third, by breaking 
forth into prayer. No wonder that the thoughts which 
he has been dwelling on should move the singer to suppli- 
cation that these blessednesses may be his. According 
to some, ver. 8 is the prayer of the pilgrim on arriving 
in the Temple, but it is best taken as the psalmist's own. 

The final part begins with invocation. In ver. 9 
** our shield " is in apposition to " God," not the object 
to "behold." It anticipates the designation of God 
in ver. 11. But why should the prayer for "Thine 
anointed " break in upon the current of thought ? Are 
we to say that the psalmist " completes his work by 
some rhythmical but ill-connected verses " (Cheyne) ? 
There is a satisfactory explanation of the apparently 
irrelevant petition, if we accept the view that the psalm, 
like its kindred Psalms xlii., xliii., was the work of a com- 
panion of David's in his flight. If so, the king's restora- 
tion would be the condition of satisfying the psalmist's 
longing for the sanctuary. Any other hypothesis as 
to his date and circumstances fails to supply a con- 
necting link between the main subject of the psalm and 
this petition. The " For " at the beginning of ver. 10 
favours such a view, since it gives the delights of the 
house of the Lord, and the psalmist's longing to share 
in them, as the reasons for his prayer that Jehovah 
would look upon the face of His anointed. In that 
verse he glides back to the proper theme of the psalm. 
Life is to be estimated, not according to its length, 
but according to the richness of its contents. Time is 


elastic. One crowded moment is better than a millen- 
nium of languid years. And nothing fills life so full 
or stretches the hours to hold so much of real living, 
as communion with God, which works, on those who 
have plunged into its depths, some assimilation to the 
timeless life of Him with whom " one day is as a 
thousand years." There may be a reference to the 
Korachites' function of door-keepers, in that touchingly 
beautiful choice of the psalmist's, rather to lie on the 
threshold of the Temple than to dwell in the tents 
of wickedness. Whether there is or not, the sentiment 
breathes sweet humility, and deliberate choice. Just 
as the poet has declared that the briefest moment of 
communion is in his sight to be preferred to years 
of earthly delight, so he counts the humblest office in 
the sanctuary, and the lowest place there, if only it 
is within the doorway, as better than aught besides. 
The least degree of fellowship with God has delights 
superior to the greatest measure of worldly joys. And 
this man, knowing that, chose accordingly. How many 
of us know it, and yet cannot say with him, ^* Rather 
would I lie on the door-sill of the Temple than sit in 
the chief places of the world's feasts I " 

Such a choice is the only rational one. It is the 
choice of supreme good, correspondent to man's deepest 
needs, and lasting as his being. Therefore the psalmist 
vindicates his preference, and encourages himself in it, 
by the thoughts in ver. 1 1, which he introduces with 
*' For." Because God is what He is, and gives what 
He gives, it is the highest wisdom to take Him for our 
true good, and never to let Him go. He is " sun and 
shield." This is the only place in which He is directly 
called a sun, though the idea conveyed is common. He 
is " the master light of all our seeing," the fountain of 

Ixxxiv.] THE PSALMS 449 

warmth, illumination, and life. His beams are too bright 
for human eyes to gaze on, but their effluence is the joy 
of creation. They who look to Him ** shall not walk 
in darkness, but shall have the light of life." What 
folly to choose darkness rather than light, and, when 
that Sun is high in the heavens, ready to flood our 
hearts with its beams, to prefer to house ourselves 
in gloomy caverns of our own sad thoughts and evil 
doings 1 Another reason for the psalmist's choice is 
that God is a shield. (Compare ver. 9.) Who that 
knows the dangers and foes that cluster thick round 
every life can wisely refuse to shelter behind that 
ample and impenetrable buckler? It is madness to 
stand in the open field, with arrows whizzing invisible 
all round, when one step, one heartfelt desire, would 
place that sure defence between us and every peril. 
God being such, *' grace and glory" will flow from 
Him to those who seek Him. These two are given 
simultaneously, not, as sometimes supposed, in succes- 
sion, as though grace were the sum of gifts for earth, 
and glory the all-comprehending expression for the 
higher bestowments of heaven. The psalmist thinks 
that both are possessed here. Grace is the sum of God's 
gifts, coming from His loving regard to His sinful and 
inferior creatures. Glory is the reflection of His own 
lustrous perfection, which irradiates lives that are turned 
to Him, and makes them shine, as a poor piece of 
broken pottery will, when the sunlight falls on it. 
Since God is the sum of all good, to possess Him is to 
possess it all. The one gift unfolds into all things 
lovely and needful. It is the raw material, as it were, 
out of which can be shaped, according to transient and 
multiform needs, everything that can be desired or can 
bless a soul. 

VOL. II. 29 


But high as is the psalmist's flight of mystic devotion, 
he does not soar so far as to lose sight of plain 
morality, as mystics have often been apt to do. It is 
the man who walks in his integrity who may hope to 
receive these blessings. '' Without holiness no man 
shall see the Lord " ; and neither access to His house 
nor the blessings flowing from His presence can belong 
to him who is faithless to his own convictions of duty. 
The pilgrim paths are paths of righteousness. The 
psalmist's last word translates his metaphors of dwelling 
in and travelling towards the house of Jehovah into 
their simple meaning, ^' Blessed is the man that trusteth 
in Thee." That trust both seeks and finds God. There 
has never been but one way to His presence, and that 
is the way of trust. "I am the way. . . . No man 
Cometh to the Father but by Me." So coming, we 
shall find, and then shall seek more eagerly and find 
more fully, and thus shall possess at once the joys of 
fruition and of desires always satisfied, never satiated, 
but continually renewed. 


1 Thou hast become favourable, Jehovah, to Thy land, 
Thou hast turned back the captivity of Jacob. 

2 Thou hast taken away the iniquity of Thy people, 
Thou hast covered all their sin. 

3 Thou hast drawn in all Thy wrath, 

Thou hast turned Thyself from the glow of Thine anger, 

4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, 

And cause Thine indignation towards us to cease. 

5 For ever wilt Thou be angry with us ? 

Wilt Thou stretch out Thine anger to generation after genera- 

6 Wilt Thou not revive us again, 

That Thy people may rejoice in Thee ? 

7 Show us, Jehovah, Thy loving-kindness, 
And give us Thy salvation. 

8 I will hear what God, Jehovah, will speak, 

For He will speak peace to His people and to His favoured 

Only let them not turn again to folly. 

9 Surely near to them who fear Him is His salvation, 
That glory may dwell in our land. 

10 Loving-kindness and Troth have met together. 
Righteousness and Peace have kissed [each other], 

11 Troth springs from the earth. 

And Righteousness looks down from heaven, 

12 Yea, Jehovah will give that which is good. 
And our land will give her increase. 

13 Righteousness shall go before Him, 
And shall make His footsteps a way. 

THE outstanding peculiarity of this psalm is its 
sudden transitions of feeling. Beginning with 
exuberant thanksgiving for restoration of the nation 



(w. 1-3), it passes, without intermediate gradations, 
to complaints of God's continued wrath and entreaties 
for restoration (vv. 4-7), and then as suddenly rises 
to joyous assurance of inward and outward blessings. 
The condition of the exiles returned from Babylon 
best corresponds to such conflicting emotions. The 
book of Nehemiah supplies precisely such a background 
as fits the psalm. A part of the nation had returned 
indeed, but to a ruined city, a fallen Temple, and a 
mourning land, where they were surrounded by jealous 
and powerful enemies. Discouragement had laid hold 
on the feeble company; enthusiasm had ebbed away; 
the harsh realities of their enterprise had stripped off 
its imaginative charm ; and the mass of the returned 
settlers had lost heart as well as devout faith. The 
psalm accurately reflects such a state of circumstances 
and feelings, and may, with some certitude, be assigned, 
as it is by most commentators, to the period of return 
from exile. 

It falls into three parts, of increasing length,— the 
first, of three verses (vv. 1-3), recounts God's acts of 
mercy already received ; the second, of four verses 
(vv. 4-7), is a plaintive prayer in view of still re- 
maining national afQictions ; and the third, of six 
verses, a glad report by the psalmist of the Divine 
promises which his waiting ear had heard, and which 
might well quicken the most faint-hearted into trium- 
phant hope. 

In the first strophe one great fact is presented in a 
threefold aspect, and traced wholly to Jehovah. " Thou 
hast turned back the captivity of Jacob." That expres- 
sion is sometimes used in a figurative sense for any 
restoration of prosperity, but is here to be taken 
literally. Now, as at first, the restored Israel, like 

Ixxxv.] THE PSALMS 453 

their ancestors under Joshua, had not won the land 
by their own arm, but *' because God had a favour 
unto them," and had given them favour in the eyes of 
those who carried them captive. The restoration of 
the Jews, seen from the conqueror's point of view, was 
a piece of state policy, but from that of the devout 
Israelite was the result of Gcd's working upon the 
heart of the new ruler of Babylon. The fact is stated 
in ver. I ; a yet more blessed fact, of which it is most 
blessed as being a token, is declared in ver. 2. 

The psalmist knows that captivity had been chastise- 
ment, the issue of national sin. Therefore he is sure 
that restoration is the sign of forgiveness. His thoughts 
are running in the same line as in Isa. xl. 2, where the 
proclamation to Jerusalem that her iniquity is pardoned 
is connected with the assurance that her hard service 
is accomplished. He uses two significant words for 
pardon, both of which occur in Psalm xxxii. In ver. 2 a 
sin is regarded as a weight pressing down the nation, 
which God's mercy lifts off and takes away ; in ver. 2 h 
it is conceived of as a hideous stain or foulness, which 
His mercy hides, so that it is no longer an offence to 
heaven. Ver. 3 ventures still deeper into the sacred 
recesses of the Divine nature, and traces the forgiveness, 
which in act had produced so happy a change in Israel's 
position, to its source in a change in God's disposition. 
** Thou hast drawn in all Thy wrath," as a man does 
his breath, or, if the comparison may be ventured, as 
some creature armed with a sting retracts it into its 
sheath. ** Thou hast turned Thyself from the glow 
of Thine anger " gives the same idea under another 
metaphor. The word '' turn " has a singular fascination 
for this psalmist. He uses it five times (vv. i, 3, 4, 6 — 
///., wilt Thou not turn, quicken us? — and 8). God's 


turning from His anger is the reason for Israel's return- 
ing from captivity. 

The abruptness of the transition from joyous thanks- 
giving to the sad minor of lamentation and supplication 
is striking, but most natural, if the psalmist was one of 
the band of returning exiles, surrounded by the ruins 
of a happier past, and appalled by the magnitude of the 
work before them, the slenderness of their resources, 
and the fierce hostility of their neighbours. The 
prayer of ver. 4, " Turn us," is best taken as using 
the word in the same sense as in ver. i, where God is 
said to have " turned " the captivity of Jacob. What 
was there regarded as accomplished is here conceived 
of as still to be done. That is, the restoration was 
incomplete, as we know that it was, both in regard to 
the bulk of the nation, who still remained in exile, and 
in regard to the depressed condition of the small part 
of it which had gone back to Palestine. In like manner 
the petitions of ver. 5 look back to ver. 3, and pray that 
the anger which there had been spoken of as passed 
may indeed utterly cease. The partial restoration of 
the people implied, in the psalmist's view, a diminution 
rather than a cessation of God's punitive wrath, and 
he beseeches Him to complete that which He had 

The relation of the first to the second strophe is 
not only that of contrast, but the prayers of the latter 
are founded upon the facts of the former, which consti- 
tute both grounds for the suppliant's hope of answer 
and pleas with God. He cannot mean to deliver by 
halves. The mercies received are incomplete ; and His 
work must be perfect. He cannot be partially recon- 
ciled, nor have meant to bring His people back to 
the land, and then leave them to misery. So the 

Ixxxv.] THE PSALMS 455 

contrast between the bright dawning of the Return 
and its clouded day is not wholly depressing ; for the 
remembrance of what has been heartens for the assur- 
ance that what is shall not always be, but will be 
followed by a future more correspondent to God's pur- 
pose as shown in that past. When we are tempted 
to gloomy thoughts by the palpable incongruities 
between God's ideals and man's realisation of them, we 
may take a hint from this psalmist, and, instead of 
concluding that the ideal was a phantasm, argue with 
ourselves that the incomplete actual will one day give 
way to the perfect cRxbodiment. God leaves no work 
unfinished. He never leaves off till He has done. 
His beginnings guarantee congruous endings. He 
does not half withdraw His anger ; and, if He seems 
to do so, it is only because men have but half turned 
from their sins. This psalm is rich in teaching as to 
the right way of regarding the incompleteness of great 
movements which, in their incipient stages, were 
evidently of God. It instructs us to keep the Divine 
intervention which started them clearly in view; to 
make the shortcomings, which mar them, a subject of 
lowly prayer ; and to be sure that all which He begins 
He will finish, and that the end will fully correspond to 
the promise of the beginning. A ^' day of the Lord " 
which rose in brightness may cloud over as its hours 
roll, but "at eventide it shall be light," and none of the 
morning promise will be unfulfilled. 

The third strophe (vv. 8-13) brings solid hopes, 
based upon Divine promises, to bear on present dis- 
couragements. In ver. 8 the psalmist, like Habakkuk 
(ii. l), encourages himself to listen to what God will 
speak. The word **I will hear" expresses resolve or 
desire, and might be rendered Let me hear^ or / woula 


hear. Faithful prayer will always be followed by 
patient and faithful waiting for response from God. 
God will not be silent, when His servant appeals to 
Him with recognition of His past mercies, joined with 
longing that these may be perfected. No voice will 
break the silence of the heavens ; but, in the depths 
of the waiting soul, there will spring a sweet assurance 
which comes from God, and is really His answer to 
prayer, telling the suppliant that *' He will speak peace 
to His people," and warning them not to turn away 
from Him to other helps, which is folly. " His favoured 
ones" seems here to be meant as coextensive with 
" His people." Israel is regarded as having entered 
into covenant relations with God ; and the designation 
is the pledge that what God speaks will be *' peace." 
That word is to be taken in its widest sense, as mean- 
ing, first and chiefly, peace with Him, who has *^ turned 
Himself from His anger " ; and then, generally, well- 
being of all kinds, outward and inward, as a conse- 
quence of that rectified relation with God. 

The warning of ver. 8 c is thought by some to be out 
of place, and an emendation has been suggested, which 
requires little change in the Hebrew — namely, *' to 
those who have turned their hearts towards Him." 
This reading is supported by the LXX. ; but the 
warning is perfectly appropriate, and carries a large 
truth — that the condition of God's speaking of peace is 
our firm adherence to Him. Once more the psalmist 
uses his favourite word *'turn." God had turned the 
captivity ; He had turned Himself from His anger ; 
the psalmist had prayed Him to turn or restore the 
people, and to turn and revive them, and now He 
warns against turning again to folly. There is always 
danger of relapse in those who have experienced God's 

Ixxxv.] THE PSALMS 457 

delivering mercy. There is a blessed turning, when 
they are brought from the far-off land to dwell near 
God. But there is a possible fatal turning away from 
the Voice that speaks peace, and the Arm that brings 
salvation, to the old distance and bondage. Strange 
that any ears, which have heard the sweetness of His 
still small Voice whispering Peace, should wish to stray 
where it cannot be heard I Strange that the warning 
should ever be required, and tragic that it should so 
often be despised I 

After the introductory ver. 8, the substance of what 
Jehovah spoke to the psalmist is proclaimed in the 
singer's own words. The first assurance which the 
psalmist drew from the Divine word was that God's 
salvation, the whole fulness of His delivering grace 
both in regard to external and in inward evils, is ever 
near to them that fear Him. "Salvation" here is to 
be taken in its widest sense. It means, negatively, 
deliverance from all possible evils, outward and inward ; 
and, positively, endowment with all possible good, both 
for body and spirit. With such fulness of complete 
blessings, they, and they only, who keep near to God, 
and refuse to turn aside to foolish confidences, shall be 
enriched. That is the inmost meaning of what God 
said to the psalmist; and it is said to all. And that 
salvation being thus possessed, it would be possible for 
" glory " — i,e.y the manifest presence of God, as in the 
Shechinah — to tabernacle in the land. The condition 
of God's dwelling with men is their acceptance of His 
salvation. That purifies hearts to be temples. 

The lovely personifications in vv. 10- 1 3 have 
passed into Christian poetry and art, but are not 
clearly apprehended when they are taken to describe 
the harmonious meeting and co-operation, in Christ's 


great work, of apparently opposing attributes of the 
Divine nature. No such thoughts are in the psalmist's 
mind. Loving-kindness and Faithfulness or Troth are 
constantly associated in Scripture as Divine attributes. 
Righteousness and Peace are as constantly united, 
as belonging to the perfection of human character. 
Ver. lo seems to refer to the manifestation of God's 
Loving-kindness and Faithfulness in its first clause, 
and to the exhibition of His people's virtues and con- 
sequent happiness in its second. In all God's dealings 
for His people, His Loving-kindness blends with Faith- 
fulness. In all His people's experience Righteousness 
and Peace are inseparable. The point of the assur- 
ance in ver. lo is that heaven and earth are blended 
in permanent amity. These four radiant angels " dwell 
in the land." Then, in ver. ii, there comes a beauti- 
ful inversion of the two pairs of personifications, of 
each of which one member only reappears. Troth or 
Faithfulness, which in ver. lo came into view princi- 
pally as a Divine attribute, in ver. 1 1 is conceived of 
as a human virtue. It ^* springs out of the earth " — 
that is, is produced among men. All human virtue is 
an echo of the Divine, and they who have received into 
their hearts the blessed results of God's Faithfulness 
will bring forth in their lives fruits like it in kind. 
Similarly, Righteousness, which in ver. lO was mainly 
viewed as a human excellence, here appears as dwell- 
ing in and looking down from heaven, like a gracious 
angel smiling on the abundance of Faithfulness which 
springs from earth. Thus '' the bridal of the earth 
and sky" is set forth in these verses. 

The same idea is further presented in ver. I2, in 
its most general form. God gives that which is good, 
both outward and inward blessings, and, thus fructified 

Ixxxv.] THE PSALMS 459 

by bestowments from above, earth yields her increase. 
His gifts precede men's returns. Without sunshine 
and rain there are no harvests. More widely still, 
God gives first before He asks. He does not gather 
where He has not strawed, nor reap what He has 
not sown. Nor does He only sow, but He ''blesses the 
springing thereof"; and to Him should the harvest be 
rendered. He gives before we can give. Isa. xlv. 8 
is closely parallel, representing in like manner the 
co-operation of heaven and earth, in the new world 
of Messianic times. 

In ver. 13 the thought of the blending of heaven 
and earth, or of Divine attributes as being the founda- 
tion and parents of their human analogues, is still more 
vividly expressed. Righteousness, which in ver. 10 
was regarded as exercised by men, and in ver. 1 1 as 
looking down from heaven, is now represented both 
as a herald preceding God's royal progress, and as 
following in His footsteps. The last clause is rendered 
in different ways, which all have the same general sense. 
Probably the rendering above is best : " Righteousness 
shall make His footsteps a way " — that is, for men to 
walk in. All God's workings among men, which are 
poetically conceived as His way, have stamped on them 
Righteousness. That strong angel goes before Him 
to clear a path for Him, and trace the course which He 
shall take. That is the imaginative expression of the 
truth — that absolute, inflexible Righteousness guides all 
the Divine acts. But the same Righteousness, which 
precedes, also follows Him, and points His footsteps 
as the way for us. The incongruity of this double 
position of God's herald makes the force of the thought 
greater. It is the poetical embodiment of the truth, 
that the perfection of man's character and conduct lies 


in his being an " imitator of God," and that, however 
different in degree, our righteousness must be based 
on His. What a wonderful thought that is, that the 
union between heaven and earth is so close that God's 
path is our way 1 How deep into the foundation of 
ethics the psalmist's glowing vision pierces I How 
blessed the assurance that God's Righteousness is re- 
vealed from heaven to make men righteous I 

Our psalm needs the completion, which tells of that 
gospel in which " the Righteousness of God from faith 
is revealed for faith." In Jesus the ** glory " has 
tabernacled among men. He has brought heaven and 
earth together. In Him God's Loving-kindness and 
Faithfulness have become denizens of earth, as never 
before. In Him heaven has emptied its choicest good 
on earth. Through Him our barrenness and weeds 
are changed into harvests of love, praise, and service. 
In Him the Righteousness of God is brought near; 
and, trusting in Him, each of us may tread in His 
footsteps, and have His Righteousness fulfilled in us 
**who walk, not after the flesh, but after the spirit." 


1 Bow down Thine ear, Jehovah, answer me^ 
For I am afflicted and poor. 

2 Keep my soul, for I am favoured [by Thee], 
Save Thy servant, O Thou my God, 

That trusts in Thee. 

3 Be gracious to me. Lord, 
For to Thee I cry all the day. 

4 Rejoice the soul of Thy servant, 

For to Thee, Lord, do I lift up my soul, 

5 For Thou, Lord, art good and forgiving, 

And plenteous in loving-kindness to all who call on Thee, 

6 Give ear, Jehovah, to my prayer. 

And take heed to the voice of my supplications. 

7 In the day of my straits will I call [on] Thee, 
For Thou wilt answer me. 

8 There is none like Thee among the gods, O Lord, 
And no [works] like Thy works. 

9 All nations whom Thou hast made 

Shall come and bow themselves before Thee^ 
And shall give glory to Thy Name. 

10 For great art Thou and doest wonders^ 
Thou art God alone. 

11 Teach me, Jehovah, Thy way, 
I will walk in Thy troth. 

Unite my heart to fear Thy Name. 

12 I will thank Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart. 
And I will glorify Thy Name for ever. 

13 For Thy loving-kindness is great towards me, 

And Thou hast delivered my soul from Sheol beneath, 

14 O God, the proud have risen against me. 

And a crew of violent men have sought after my soul. 
And have not set Thee before them. 


15 But Thou, Lord, art a God compassionate and gracious, 
Long-suffering and plenteous in loving-kindness and troth. 

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, 
Give Thy strength to Thy servant, 
And save the son of Thy handmaid. 

17 Work for me a sign for good, 

That they who hate me may see and be ashamed. 
For Thou, Jehovah, hast helped me and comforted me. 

THIS psalm is little more than a mosaic of quota- 
tions and familiar phrases of petition. But it is 
none the less individual, nor is the psalmist less heavily 
burdened, or less truly beseeching and trustful, because 
he casts his prayer into well-worn words. God does 
not give " originality " to every devout man ; and He 
does not require it as a condition of accepted prayer. 
Humble souls, who find in more richly endowed men's 
words the best expression of their own needs, may be 
encouraged by such a psalm. Critics may think little 
of it, as a mere cento ; but God does not refuse to bow 
His ear, though He is asked to do so in borrowed 
words. A prayer full of quotations may be heartfelt, 
and then it will be heard and answered. This psalmist 
has not only shown his intimate acquaintance with 
earlier devotional words, but he has woven his garland 
with much quiet beauty, and has blended its flowers 
into a harmony of colour all his own. 

There is no fully developed strophical arrangement, 
but there is a discernible flow of thought, and the psalm 
may be regarded as falling into three parts. 

The first of these (vv. 1-5) is a series of petitions, 
each supported by a plea. The petitions are the well- 
worn ones which spring from universal need, and there 
is a certain sequence in them. They begin with '' Bow 
down Thine ear," the first of a suppliant's desires, which, 
as it were, clears the way for those which follow. 

Ixxxvi.] THE PSALMS 463 

Trusting that he will not ask in vain, the psalmist then 
prays that God would " keep " his soul as a watchful 
guardian or sentry does, and that, as the result of such 
care, he may be saved from impending perils. Nor do 
his desires limit themselves to deliverance. They rise 
to more inward and select manifestations of God's heart 
of tenderness, for the prayer " Be gracious " asks for 
such, and so goes deeper into the blessedness of the 
devout life than the preceding. And the crown of all 
these requests is *' Rejoice the soul of Thy servant," with 
the joy which flows from experience of outward deliver- 
ance and of inward whispers of God's grace, heard in 
the silent depths of communion with Him. It matters 
not that every petition has parallels in other psalms, 
which this singer is quoting. His desires are none the 
less his, because they have been shared by a company 
of devout souls before him. His expression of them is 
none the less his, because his very words have been 
uttered by others. There is rest in thus associating 
oneself with an innumerable multitude who have *' cried 
to God and been lightened." The petition in ver. i 
is like that in Psalm Iv. 2. Ver. 2 sounds like a re- 
miniscence of Psalm XXV. 20 ; ver. 3 closely resembles 
Psalm Ivii. I. 

The pleas on which the petitions are grounded are 
also beautifully wreathed together. First, the psalmist 
asks to be heard because he is afflicted and poor (com- 
pare Psalm xl. 17). Our need is a valid plea with a 
faithful God. The sense of it drives us to Him ; and 
our recognition of poverty and want must underlie all 
faithful appeal to Him. The second plea is capable 
of two interpretations. The psalmist says that he is 
Chasid'y and that word is by some commentators taken 
to mean one who exercises^ and by others one who is ike 


subject ofy Chesed — i.e.y loving-kindness. As has been 
already remarked on Psalm iv. 3, the passive meaning 
— i.e.y one to whom God's loving-kindness is shown — is 
preferable. Here it is distinctly better than the other. 
The psalmist is not presenting his own character as a 
plea, but urging God's gracious relation to him, which, 
once entered on, pledges God to unchanging con- 
tinuance in manifesting His loving-kindness. But, 
though the psalmist does not plead his character, he 
does, in the subsequent pleas, present his faith, his 
daily and day-long prayers, and his lifting of his 
desires, aspirations, and whole self above the trivialities 
of earth to set them on God. These are valid pleas 
with Him. It cannot be that trust fixed on Him should 
be disappointed, nor that cries perpetually rising to His 
ears should be unanswered, nor that a soul stretching 
its tendrils heavenward should fail to find the strong 
stay, round which it can cling and climb. God owns 
the force of such appeals, and delights to be moved to 
answer, by the spreading before Him of His servant's 
faith and longings. 

But all the psalmist's other pleas are merged at last 
in that one contained in ver. 5, where he gazes on the 
revealed Name of God, and thinks of Him as He had 
been described of old, and as this suppliant delights 
to set to his seal that he has found Him to be — good 
and placable, and rich in loving-kindness. God is His 
own motive, and Faith can find nothing mightier to 
urge with God, nor any surer answer to its own doubts 
to urge with itself, than the unfolding of all that lies 
in the Name of the Lord. These pleas, like the 
petitions which they support, are largely echoes of 
older words. " Afflicted and poor " comes, as just 
noticed, from Psalm xl. 17. The designation of "one 

Ixxxvi.] THE PSALMS 465 

whom God favours" is from Psalm iv. 3. " Unto Thee do 
I Hft up my soul " is taken verbatim from Psalm xxv. i . 
The explication of the contents of the Name of the 
Lord, like the fuller one in ver. 15, is based upon Exod. 
xxxiv. 6. 

Vv. 6-13 may be taken together, as the prayer 
proper, to which vv. 1-5 are introductory. In them 
there is, first, a repetition of the cry for help, and of 
the declaration of need (vv. 6, 7) ; then a joyful con- 
templation of God's unapproachable majesty and works, 
which insure the ultimate recognition of His Name by 
all nations (vv. 8-10) ; then a profoundly and tenderly 
spiritual prayer for guidance and consecration — wants 
more pressing still than outward deliverance (ver. 11); 
and, finally, as in so many psalms, anticipatory thanks- 
givings for deliverance yet future, but conceived of as 
present by vivid faith. 

Echoes of earlier psalms sound through the whole ; 
but the general impression is not that of imitation, but 
of genuine personal need and devotion. Ver. 7 is like 
Psalm xvii. 6 and other passages ; ver. 8 <3! is from 
Exod. XV. 11; ver. 8 ^ is modelled on Deut. iii. 24 ; 
ver. 9, on Psalm xxii. 27 ; ver. 1 1 a, on Psalm xxvii. 1 1 ; 
ver. 11^, on Psalm xxvi. 3 ; ** Sheol beneath " is from 
Deut. xxxii. 22. But, withal, there are unity and pro- 
gress in this cento of citations. The psalmist begins 
with reiterating his cry that God would hear, and in 
ver. 7 advances to the assurance that He will. Then 
in vv. 8-10 he turns from all his other pleas to dwell 
on his final one (ver. 5) of the Divine character. As, 
in the former verse, he had rested his calm hope on 
God's willingness to help, so now he strengthens him- 
self, in assurance of an answer, by the thought of God's 
unmatched power, the unique majesty of His works 

VOL. II. 30 


and His sole Divinity. Ver. 8 might seem to assert 
only Jehovah's supremacy above other gods of the 
heathen ; but ver. lO shows that the psalmist speaks 
the language of pure Monotheism. Most naturally the 
prophetic assurance that all nations shall come and 
worship Him is deduced from His sovereign power 
and incomparableness. It cannot be that " the nations 
whom Thou hast made " shall for ever remain ignorant 
of the hand that made them. Sooner or later that 
great character shall be seen by all men in its solitary 
elevation ; and universal praise shall correspond to His 
sole Divinity. 

The thought of God's sovereign power carries the 
psalmist beyond remembrance of his immediate outward 
needs, and stirs higher desires in him. Hence spring 
the beautiful and spiritual petitions of ver. 1 1, which 
seek for clearer insight into God's will concerning the 
psalmist's conduct, breathe aspirations after a *^ walk '* 
in that God-appointed way and in *' Thy troth," and 
culminate in one of the sweetest and deepest prayers 
of the Psalter : " Unite my heart to fear Thy Name." 
There, at least, the psalmist speaks words borrowed from 
no other, but springing fresh from his heart's depths. 
Jer. xxxii. 39 is the nearest parallel, and the command- 
ment in Deut. vi. 5, to love God " with all thine heart," 
may have been in the psalmist's mind ; but the prayer 
is all his own. He has known the misery of a divided 
heart, the affections and purposes of which are drawn 
in manifold directions, and are arrayed in conflict 
against each other. There is no peace nor blessedness, 
neither is any nobility of life possible, without whole- 
hearted devotion to one great object ; and there is 
no object capable of evoking such devotion or worthy 
to receive it, except Him who is **God alone." 

IxxxvL] THE PSALMS 467 

Divided love is no love. It must be "all in all, or 
not at all." With deep truth, the command to love God 
with all the heart is based upon His Unity — " Hear, 
O Israel : The Lord thy God is one Lord ; and thou 
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart " 
(Deut. vi. 4). The very conception of religion requires 
that it should be exclusive, and should dominate the 
whole nature. It is only God who is great enough to 
fill and engage all our capacities. Only the mass of 
the central sun is weighty enough to make giant orbs 
its satellites, and to wheel them in their courses. There 
is no tranquillity nor any power in lives frittered away 
on a thousand petty loves. The river that breaks into 
a multitude of channels is sucked up in the sand with- 
out reaching the ocean, and has no force in its current 
to scour away obstructions. Concentration makes 
strong men ; consecration makes saints. " This one 
thing I do" is the motto of all who have done any- 
thing worthy. '* Unite my heart to fear Thy Name " 
is the prayer of all whose devotion is worthy of its 
object, and is the source of joy and power to themselves. 
The psalmist asks for a heart made one with itself 
in the fear of God, and then vows that, with that united 
heart, he will praise his delivering God. As in many 
other psalms, he anticipates the answers to his prayers, 
and in ver. 13 speaks of God's loving-kindness as 
freshly manifested to him, and of deliverance from the 
dismal depths of the unseen world, which threatened 
to swallow him up. It seems more in accordance with 
the usage in similar psalms to regard ver. 13 as thus 
recounting, with prophetic certainty, the coming deliver- 
ance as if it were accomplished, than to suppose that 
in it the psalmist is falling back on former instances of 
God's rescuing grace. 


In the closing part (vv. 14-17), the psalmist de- 
scribes more precisely his danger. He is surrounded 
by a rabble rout of proud and violent men, whose 
enmity to him is, as in so many of the psalms of 
persecuted singers, a proof of their forgetfulness of 
God. Right against this rapid outline of his perils, he 
sets the grand unfolding of the character of God in 
ver. 15. It is still fuller than that in ver. 5, and, like 
it, rests on Exod. xxxiv. Such juxtaposition is all that 
is needed to show how little he has to fear from the 
hostile crew. On one hand are they, in their insolence 
and masterfulness, eagerly hunting after his life ; on 
the other is God with His infinite pity and loving- 
kindness. Happy are they who can discern high above 
dangers and foes the calm presence of the only God, 
and, with hearts undistracted and undismayed, can 
oppose to all that assails them the impenetrable shield 
of the Name of the Lord 1 It concerns our peaceful 
fronting of the darker facts of life, that we cultivate 
the habit of never looking at dangers or sorrows with- 
out seeing the helping God beside and above them. 

The psalm ends with prayer for present help. If 
God is, as the psalmist has seen Him to be, '^full of 
compassion and gracious," it is no presumptuous peti- 
tion that the streams of these perfections should be 
made to flow towards a needy suppliant. " Be gracious 
to me''^ asks that the light, which pours through the 
universe, may fall on one heart, which is surrounded 
by earth-born darkness. As in the introductory verses, 
so in the closing petitions, the psalmist grounds his 
prayer principally on God's manifested character, and 
secondarily on his own relation to God. Thus in ver. 16 
he pleads that he is God's servant, and ^* the son of Thy 
handmaid " (compare Psalm cxvi. 16). That express 

Ixxxvl] THE PSALMS 469 

sion does not imply any special piety in the psalmist's 
mother, but pleads his hereditary relation as servant 
to God, or, in other words, his belonging by birth to 
Israel, as a reason for his prayers being heard. His 
last petition for ** a sign " does not necessarily mean a 
miracle, but a clear manifestation of God's favour, which 
might be as unmistakably shown by an every-day 
event as by a supernatural intervention. To the 
devout heart, all common things are from God, and 
bear witness for Him. Even blind eyes and hard 
hearts may be led to see and feel that God is the 
helper and comforter of humble souls who trust in 
Him. A heart that is made at peace with itself by the 
fear of God, and has but one dominant purpose and 
desire, will long for God's mercies, not only because 
they have a bearing on its own outward well-being, but 
because they will demonstrate that it is no vain thing 
to wait on the Lord, and may lead some, who cherished 
enmity to God's servant and alienation from Himself, 
to learn the sweetness of His Name and the security 
of tru.5t in Him. 


1 His foundation on the holy mountains, 

2 The gates of Zion Jehovah loves 
More than all the dwellings of Jacob. 

3 Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah. 

4 I will proclaim Rahab and Babylon as those who know Me : 
" Behold Philistia and Tyre, with Cush ; 

This one was born there." 

5 And of Zion it shall be said, 

" Man after man was born in her," 

And He, the Most High, shall estabhsh her. 

6 Jehovah shall reckon when He writes down the peoples, 
" This one was born there." Selah. 

7 And singers and dancers [shall chant], 
" All my fountains are in Thee." 

ONE clear note sounds in this remarkable psalm. 
Its single theme is the incorporation of ancestral 
foes and distant nations with the people of God. 
Aliens are to be enrolled as home-born citizens of 
Jerusalem. In modern words, the vision of a universal 
Church, a brotherhood of humanity, shines radiant 
before the seer. Other psalmists and prophets have 
like insight into the future expansion of the nation, 
but this psalm stands alone in the emphasis which 
it places upon the idea of birth into the rights of 
citizenship. This singer has had granted to him a 
glimpse of two great truths — the universality of the 
Church, and the mode of entrance into it by reception 


Ixxxvii.] THE PSALMS 471 

of a new life. To what age of Israel he belonged is 
uncertain. The mention of Babylon as among the 
enemies who have become fellow-citizens favours the 
supposition of a post-exilic date, which is also sup- 
ported by resemblances to Isa. xl.-lxvi. 

The structure is simple. The psalm is divided by 
Selah into two strophes, to which a closing verse 
is appended. The first strophe bursts abruptly into 
rapturous praise of Zion, the beloved of God. The 
second predicts the gathering of all nations into her 
citizenship, and the closing verse apparently paints 
the exuberant joy of the festal crowds, who shall then 
throng her streets. 

The abrupt beginning of the first strophe offends 
some commentators, who have tried to smooth ver. i 
into propriety and tameness, by suggesting possible 
preliminary clauses, which they suppose to have 
dropped out. But there is no canon which forbids a 
singer, with the rush of inspiration, either poetic or 
other, on him, to plunge into the heart of his theme. 
Ver. I may be construed, as in the A.V. and R.V. (text), 
as a complete sentence, but is then somewhat feeble. 
It is better to connect it with ver. 2, and to regard 
" His foundation upon the holy mountains " as parallel 
with "the gates of Zion," and as, like that phrase, 
dependent on the verb "loves." Hupfeld, indeed, 
proposes to transfer "Jehovah loves" from the be- 
ginning of ver. 2, where it now stands, to the end 
of ver. I, supplying the verb mentally in the second 
clause. He thus gets a complete parallelism : — 

His foundation upon the holy mountains Jehovah loves, 
The gates of Zion before all the dwellings of Jacob. 

But this is not necessary ; for the verb may as well 


be supplied to the first as to the second clause. The 
harshness of saying ** His foundation," without desig- 
nating the person to whom the pronoun refers, which 
is extreme if ver. i is taken as a separate sentence, 
is diminished when it is regarded as connected with 
ver. 2, in which the mention of Jehovah leaves no 
doubt as to whose the '* foundation " is. The psalmist*s 
fervent love for Jerusalem is something more than 
national pride. It is the apotheosis of that emotion, 
clarified and hallowed into religion. Zion is founded 
by God Himself. The mountains on which it stands 
are made holy by the Divine dwelling. On their 
heads shines a glory before which the light that lies 
on the rock crowned by the Parthenon or on the seven 
hills of Rome pales. Not only the Temple mountain 
is meant, but the city is the psalmist's theme. The 
hills, on which it stands, are emblems of the firmness 
of its foundation in the Divine purpose, on which it 
reposes. It is beloved of God, and that, as the form 
of the word ** loves " shows, with an abiding affection. 
The " glorious things " which are spoken of Zion may 
be either the immediately following Divine oracle, or, 
more probably, prophetic utterances such as many of 
those in Isaiah, which predict its future glory. The 
Divine utterance which follows expresses the sub- 
stance of these. So far, the psalm is not unlike other 
outpourings in praise of Zion, such as Psalm xlviii. 
But, in the second strophe, to which the first is intro- 
ductory, the singer strikes a note all his own. 

There can be no doubt as to who is the speaker 
in ver. 4. The abrupt introduction of a Divine Oracle 
accords with a not infrequent usage in the Psalter, 
which adds much to the solemnity of the words. If 
we regard the ** glorious things " mentioned in ver. 3 

Ixxxvii.] THE PSALMS 473 

as being the utterances of earlier prophets, the psalmist 
has had his ears purged to hear God's voice, by medi- 
tation on and sympathy with these. The faithful use 
of what God has said prepares for hearing further 
disclosures of His lips. The enumeration of nations in 
ver. 4 carries a great lesson. First comes the ancient 
enemy, Egypt, designated by the old name of contempt 
(Rahab, t.e. pride), but from which the contempt has 
faded ; then follows Babylon, the more recent inflicter 
of many miseries, once so detested, but towards whom 
animosity has died down. These two, as the chief 
oppressors, between whom, like a piece of metal between 
hammer and anvil, Israel's territory lay, are named first, 
with the astonishing declaration that God will proclaim 
them as among those who know Him. That knowledge, 
of course, is not merely intellectual, but the deeper 
knowledge of personal acquaintance or friendship — a 
knowledge of which love is an element, and which is 
vital and transforming. Philistia is the old neighbour 
and foe, which from the beginning had hung on the 
skirts of Israel, and been ever ready to utilise her 
disasters and add to them. Tyre is the type of godless 
luxury and inflated material prosperity, and, though 
often in friendly alliance with Israel, as being exposed 
to the same foes which harassed her, she was as far 
from knowing God as the other nations were. Gush, 
or Ethiopia, seems mentioned as a type of distant 
peoples, rather than because of its hostility to Israel. 
God points to these nations — some of them near, some 
remote, some powerful and some feeble, some heredi- 
tarily hostile and some more or less amicable with 
Israel — and gives forth the declaration concerning them, 
**This one was born there." 

God's voice ceases, and in ver. 5 the psalmist takes 


up the wonderful promise which he has just heard. 
He shghtly shifts his point of view : for while the 
nations that were to be gathered into Zion were the 
foremost figures in the Divine utterance, the Zion into 
which they are gathered is foremost in the psalmist's, 
in ver. 5. Its glory, when thus enriched by a multitude 
of new citizens, bulks in his eyes more largely than 
their blessedness. Another shade of difference between 
the two verses is that, in the former, the ingathering 
of the peoples is set forth as collective or national 
incorporation, and, in the latter, — as the expression 
" man after (or by) man " suggests, — individual acces- 
sion is more clearly foretold. The establishment of 
Zion, which the psalmist prophesies, is the result of her 
reinforcement by these new citizens. The grand figure 
of ver. 6 pictures God as taking a census of the whole 
world ; for it is " the peoples " whom He numbers 
As he writes down each name. He says concerning it, 
'* This one was born there." That list of citizens is 
" the Book of the Living." So " the end of all history 
is that Zion becomes the metropolis of all people " 

Three great truths had dawned on this psalmist, 
though their full light was reserved for the Christian 
era. He had been led to apprehend that the Jewish 
Church would expand into a world-wide community. 
If one thinks of the gulfs of hatred and incompatibility 
which parted the peoples in his day, his clear utterance 
of that great truth, the apprehension of which so far 
transcended his time, and the realisation of which so 
far transcends ours, will surely be seen to be due to 
a Divine breath. The broadest New Testament ex- 
pression of Universalism does not surpass the psalmist's 
confident certainty. ^* There is neither Greek nor Jew, 

Ixxxvii.] THE PSALMS 475 

barbarian, Scythian," says no more than he said. 
More remarkable still is his conception of the method 
by which the nations should be gathered in to Zion. 
They are to be " born there." Surely there shines 
before the speaker some glimmering ray of the truth 
that incorporation with the people of God is effected 
by the communication of a new life, a transformation 
of the natural, which will set men in new affinities, and 
make them all brethren, because all participant of the 
same wondrous birth. It would be anachronism to 
read into the psalm the clear Christian truth *' Ye 
must be born again," but it would be as false a 
weakening of its words to refuse to see in them the 
germ of that truth. The third discovery which the 
psalmist has made, or rather the third revelation which 
he has received, is that of the individual accession of 
the members of the outlying nations. The Divine voice, 
in ver. 4, seems to speak of birth into citizenship as 
national ; but the psalmist, in ver. 6, represents Jehovah 
as writing the names of individuals in the burgess-roll, 
and of saying in regard to each, as He writes, ''This 
one was born there." In like manner, in ver. 5, the 
form of expression is '' Man after man," which brings 
out the same thought, with the addition that there is an 
unbroken series of new citizens. It is by accession of 
single souls that the population of Zion is increased. 
God's register resolves the community into its com- 
ponent units. Men are born one by one, and one by 
one they enter the true kingdom. In the ancient world 
the community was more than the individual. But in 
Christ the individual acquires new worth, while the 
bands of social order are not thereby weakened, but 
made more stringent and sacred. The city, whose 
inhabitants have one by one been won by its King, and 


have been knit to Him in the sacred depths of personal 
being, is more closely " compact together " than the 
mechanical aggregations which call themselves civil 
societies. The unity of Christ's kingdom does not 
destroy national characteristics any more than it inter- 
feres with individual idiosyncrasies. The more each 
constituent member is himself, the more will he be 
joined to others, and contribute his special mite to the 
general wealth and well-being. 

Ver. 7 is, on any interpretation, extremely obscure, 
because so abrupt and condensed. But probably the 
translation adopted above, though by no means free 
from difficulty or doubt, brings out the meaning which 
is most in accordance with the preceding. It may be 
supposed to flash vividly before the reader's imagina- 
tion the picture of a triumphal procession of rejoicing 
citizens, singers as well as dancers, who chant, as 
they advance, a joyous chorus in praise of the city, in 
which they have found all fountains of joy and satis- 
faction welling up for their refreshment and delight. 


1 Jehovah, God of my salvation, 

By day, by night I cry before Thee. 

2 Let my prayer come before Thy face, 
Bow Thine ear to my shrill cry. 

3 For sated with troubles is my soul. 
And my life has drawn near to Sheol. 

4 I am counted with those that have gone down to the pit, 
I am become as a man without strength. 

5 [I am] free among the dead. 

Like the slain that lie in the grave, 
Whom Thou rememberest no more, 
But they are cut off from Thy hand. 

6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, 
In dark places, in the deeps. 

7 Upon me Thy wrath presses hard. 

And [with] all Thy breakers Thou hast afflicted [me]. Selah 

8 Thou hast put my familiar friends far from me. 
Thou hast made me an abomination to them, 

I am shut up so that I cannot come forth. 

9 My eye wastes away because of affliction, 
I have called on Thee daily, Jehovah, 

I have spread out my palms to Thee. 

10 For the dead canst Thou do wonders ? 

Or can the shades arise [and] praise Thee? Selah. 

11 In the grave can Thy loving- kindness be told, 
And Thy faithfulness in destruction ? 

12 Can Thy wonders be made known in darkness. 
And Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness ? 

13 But I, I have cried unto Thee, Jehovah, 

And in the morning my prayer comes to meet Thee. 

14 Why, Jehovah, dost Thou cast off my soul, 
[And] hidest Thy face from me ? 



15 Afflicted am I and at the point of death from [my] youth, 
I have borne Thy terrors [till] I am distracted. 

16 Over me have Thy [streams of] wrath passed, 
Thy horrors have cut me off. 

17 They have compassed me about like waters all the day, 
They have come round me together. 

18 Thou hast put far from me lover and friend, 
My familiar friends are — darkness. 

A PSALM which begins with ** God of my salva- 
tion " and ends with ^^ darkness " is an anomaly. 
All but unbroken gloom broods over it, and is densest 
at its close. The psalmist is so "weighed upon by 
sore distress," that he has neither definite petition 
for deliverance nor hope. His cry to God is only 
a long-drawn complaint, which brings no respite from 
his pains nor brightening of his spirit. But yet to 
address God as the God of his salvation, to discern 
His hand in the infliction of sorrows, is the operation 
of true though feeble faith. "Though He slay me, 
yet will I trust in Him," is the very spirit of this 
psalm. It stands alone in the Psalter, which would 
be incomplete as a mirror of phases of devout experi- 
ence, unless it had one psalm expressing trust which 
has ceased to ask or hope for the removal of life- 
long griefs, but still clasps God's hand even in the 
''darkness." Such experience is comparatively rare, 
and is meant to be risen above. Therefore this psalm 
stands alone. But it is not unexampled, and all 
moods of the devout life would not find lyrical ex- 
pression in the book unless this deep note was once 

It is useless to inquire what was the psalmist's 
affliction. His language seems to point to physical 
disease, of long continuance and ever threatening a 
fatal termination; but in all probability sickness is a 

Ixxxviii.] THE PSALMS 479 

symbol here, as so often. What racked his sensitive 
spirit matters Httle. The cry which his pains evoked 
is what we are concerned with. There is h'ttle trace 
of strophical arrangement, and commentators differ 
much in their disposition of the parts of the psalm. 
But we venture to suggest a principle of division which 
has not been observed, in the threefold recurrence ot 
"I cry" or "I call," accompanied in each case by 
direct address to Jehovah. The resulting division 
into three parts gives, first, the psalmist's description 
of his hopeless condition as, in effect, already dead 
(vv. 1-8) ; second, an expostulation with God on the 
ground that, if the psalmist is actually numbered with 
the dead, he can no more be the object of Divine help, 
nor bring God praise (vv. 9-12) ; and, third, a repetition 
of the thoughts of the first part, with slight variation 
and addition. 

The central portion of the first division is occupied 
with an expansion of the thought that the psalmist is 
already as good as dead (vv. 3 b-6). The condition 
of the dead is drawn with a powerful hand, and the 
picture is full of solemn grandeur and hopelessness. 
It is preceded in vv. i, 2, by an invocation which has 
many parallels in the psalms, but which here is pecu- 
liarly striking. This saddest of them all has for its 
first words the Name which ought to banish sadness. 
He who can call on Jehovah as the God of his sal- 
vation possesses a charm which has power to still 
agitation, and to flush despair with some light of hope 
as from an unrisen sun. But this poet feels no warmth 
from the beams, and the mists surge up, if not to hide 
the light, yet to obscure it. All the more admirable, 
then, the persistence of his cry; and all the more 
precious the lesson that Faith is not to let present 


experience limit its conceptions. God is none the less 
the God of salvation and none the less to be believed 
to be so, though no consciousness of His saving power 
blesses the heart at the moment. 

Ver. I ^ is obscure. Psalm xxii. 2 and other places 
suggest that the juxtaposition of day and night is 
meant to express the continuity of the psalmist's prayer ; 
but, as the text now stands, the first part of the clause 
can only mean " In the time (day) when I cry," and 
the second has to be supplemented so as to read ^* [My 
cry comes] before Thee." This gives a poor meaning, 
and there is probability in the slight emendation on 
the word for day^ which is required in order to make 
it an adverb of time equivalent to "In the day," as 
in the passage already quoted. Another emendation, 
adopted by Graetz, Bickell, and Cheyne, changes ** God 
of" into " my God," and "my salvation " into " I cry " 
(the same word as in ver. 13), and attaches "by day" 
to the first clause. The result is, — 

Jehovah, my God, I cry to Thee by day, 
I call in the night before Thee. 

The changes are very slight and easy, and the effect 
of them is satisfactory. The meaning of the verse 
is obvious, whether the emendation is accepted or not. 
The gain from the proposed change is dearly purchased 
by the loss of that solitary expression of hope in the 
name of " God of my salvation," the one star which 
gleams for a moment through a rift in the blackness. 

With "For" in ver. 3 the psalmist begins the dreary 
description of his affliction, the desperate and all but 
deodly character of which he spreads before God as 
a reason for hearing his prayer. Despair sometimes 
strikes men dumb, and sometimes makes them eloquent. 
The sorrow which has a voice is less crushing than 

Ixxxviii.] THE PSALMS 481 

that which is tongueless. This overcharged heart finds 
rehef in self-pitying depicting of its burdens, and in 
the exercise of a gloomy imagination, which draws out 
in detail the picture of the feebleness, the recumbent 
stillness, the seclusion and darkness of the dead. 
They have " no strength." Their vital force has ebbed 
away, and they are but as weak shadows, having an 
impotent existence, which does not deserve to be called 
life. The remarkable expression of ver. 5, "free among 
the dead," is to be interpreted in the light of Job iii. 19, 
which counts it as one blessing of the grave, that 
** there the servant is free from his master." But the 
psalmist thinks that that " freedom " is loathsome, not 
desirable, for it means removal from the stir of a life, 
the heaviest duties and cares of which are better than 
the torpid immunity from these, which makes the state 
of the dead a dreary monotony. They lie stretched 
out and motionless. No ripple of cheerful activity stirs 
that stagnant sea. One unvarying attitude is theirs. 
It is not the stillness of rest which prepares for work, 
but of incapacity of action or of change. They are 
forgotten by Him who remembers all that are. They 
are parted from the guiding and blessing influence of 
the Hand that upholds all being. In some strange 
fashion they are and yet are not. Their death has 
a simulacrum of life. Their shadowy life is death. 
Being and non-being may both be predicated of them. 
The psalmist speaks in riddles ; and the contradictions 
in his speech reflect his dim knowledge of that place 
of darkness. He looks into its gloomy depths, and he 
sees little but gloom. It needed the resurrection of 
Jesus to flood these depths with light, and to show that 
the life beyond may be fuller of brigl^t activity than 
life here — a state in which vital strength is increased 

VOL. II. 31 


beyond all earthly experience, and wherein God's all- 
quickening hand grasps more closely, and communicates 
richer gifts than are attainable in that death which 
sense calls life. 

Ver. 7 traces the psalmist's sorrows to God. It 
breathes not complaint but submission, or, at least, 
recognition of His hand ; and they who, in the very 
paroxysm of their pains, can say, " It is the Lord," are 
not far from saying, " Let Him do what seemeth Him 
good," nor from the peace that comes from a compliant 
will. The recognition implies, too, consciousness of sin 
which has deserved the " wrath " of God, and in such 
consciousness lies the germ of blessing. Sensitive 
nerves may quiver, as they feel the dreadful weight 
with which that wrath presses down on them, as if to 
crush them ; but if the man lies still, and lets the 
pressure do its work, it will not force out his life, but 
only his evil, as foul water is squeezed from cloth. 
Ver. 7^ is rendered by Delitzsch "All Thy billows 
Thou pressest down," which gives a vivid picture ; but 
" billows " is scarcely the word to use for the downward 
rushing waters of a cataract, and the ordinary rendering, 
adopted above, requires only natural supplements. 

Ver. 8 approaches nearer to a specification of the 
psalmist's afQiction. If taken literally, it points to 
some loathsome disease, which had long clung to him, 
and made even his friends shrink from companion- 
ship, and thus had condemned him to isolation. All 
these details suggest leprosy, which, if referred to 
here, is most probably to be taken, as sickness is in 
several psalms, as symbolic of affliction. The desertion 
by friends is a common feature in the psalmists' com- 
plaints. The seclusion as in a prison-house is, no 
doubt, appropriate to the leper's condition, but may 

Ixxxviii.] THE PSALMS 483 

also simply refer to the loneliness and compulsory 
inaction arising from heavy trials. At all events, the 
psalmist is flung back friendless on himself, and hemmed 
in, so that he cannot expatiate in the joyous bustle of 
life. Blessed are they who, when thus situated, can 
betake themselves to God, and find that He does 
not turn away ! The consciousness of His loving 
presence has not yet lighted the psalmist's soul ; but 
the clear acknowledgment that it is God who has put 
the sweetness of earthly companionship beyond his 
reach is, at least, the beginning of the happier experi- 
ence, that God never makes a solitude round a soul 
without desiring to fill it with Himself. 

If the recurring cry to Jehovah in ver. 9 is taken, 
as we have suggested it should be, as marking a new 
turn in the thoughts, the second part of the psalm will 
include vv. 9-12. Vv. 10-12 are apparently the daily 
prayer referred to in ver. 9. They appeal to God to 
preserve the psalmist from the state of death, which 
he has just depicted himself as having in effect 
already entered, by the consideration which is urged 
in other psalms as a reason for Divine intervention 
(vi. 5, XXX. 9, etc.) — namely, that His power had no field 
for its manifestation in the grave, and that He could 
draw no revenue of praise from the pale lips that lay 
silent there. The conception of the state of the dead 
is even more dreary than that in vv. 4, 5. They are 
"shades," which word conveys the idea of relaxed 
feebleness. Their d .veiling is Abaddon — />., "destruc- 
tion," — " darkness," "the land of forgetfulness " whose 
inhabitants remember not, nor are remembered, either 
by God or man. In that cheerless region, God had no 
opportunity to show His wonders of delivering mercy, 
for monotonous immobility was stamped upon it, and 


out of that realm of silence no glad songs of praise 
could sound. Such thoughts are in startling contrast 
with the hopes that sparkle in some psalms (such as 
xvi. 10, etc.), and they show that clear, permanent 
assurance of future blessedness was not granted to the 
ancient Church. Nor could there be sober certainty of 
it until after Christ's resurrection. But it is also to be 
noticed that this psalm neither affirms nor denies a future 
resurrection. It does affirm continuous personal exist- 
ence after death, of however thin and shadowy a sort. 
It is not concerned with what may lie far ahead, but 
is speaking of the present state of the dead, as it was 
conceived of, at the then stage of revelation, by a devout 
soul, in its hours of despondency. 

The last part (vv. 13-18) is marked, like the two 
preceding, by the repetition of the name of Jehovah, 
and of the allusion to the psalmist's continual prayer. 
It is remarkable, and perhaps significant, that the time 
of prayer should here be ** the morning," whereas in 
ver. I it was, according to Delitzsch, the nighty or, 
according to the other rendering, day and night. The 
psalmist had asked in ver. 2 that his prayer might 
enter into God's presence ; he now vows that it will 
come to meet Him. Possibly some lightening of his 
burden may be hinted at by the reference to the time 
of his petition. Morning is the hour of hope, of new 
vigour, of a fresh beginning, which may not be only a 
prolongation of dreary yesterdays. But if there is any 
such alleviation, it is only for a moment, and then the 
cloud settles down still more heavily. But one thing 
the psalmist has won by his cry. He now longs to 
know the reason for his afQiction. He is confident that 
God is righteous when He afQicts, and, heavy as his 
sorrow is, he has passed beyond mere complaint con- 

Ixxxviii.] THE PSALMS 485 

cerning it, to the wish to understand it. The conscious- 
ness that it is chastisement, occasioned by his own evil, 
and meant to purge that evil away, is present, in a 
rudimentary form at least, in that cry, ^^Why castest 
Thou off my soul ? " If sorrow has brought a man to 
offer that prayer, it has done its work, and will cease 
before long, or, if it lasts, will be easier to bear, when 
its meaning and purpose are clear. But the psalmist 
rises to such a height but for a moment, though his 
momentary attaining it gives promise that he will, by 
degrees, be able to remain there permanently. It is 
significant that the only direct naming of Jehovah, in 
addition to the three which accompany the references 
to his prayers, is associated with this petition for 
enlightenment. The singer presses close to God in 
his faith that His hardest blows are not struck at 
random, and that His administration has for its basis, 
not caprice, but reason, moved by love and righteous- 

Such a cry is never offered in vain, even though 
it should be followed, as it is here, by plaintive reitera- 
tions of the sufferer's pains. These are now little more 
than a summary of the first part. The same idea of 
being in effect dead even while alive is repeated in 
ver. 15, in which the psalmist wails that from youth 
he had been but a dying man, so close to him had death 
seemed, or so death-like had been his life. He has 
borne God's terrors till he is distracted. The word 
rendered " I am distracted " is only used here, and 
consequently is obscure. Hupfeld and others deny 
that it is a word at all (he calls it an ** Unwort "), and 
would read another which means to become torpid. The 
existing text is defended by Delitzsch and others, who 
take the word to mean to be weakened in mind or 


bewildered. The meaning of the whole seems to be 
as rendered above. But it might also be translated, 
as by Cheyne, " I bear Thy terrors, my senses must 
fail." In ver. \6 the word for wrath is in the plural, 
to express the manifold outbursts of that deadly indig- 
nation. The word means literally heat ; and we may 
represent the psalmist's thought as being that the wrath 
shoots forth many fierce tongues of licking flame, or, like 
a lava stream, pours out in many branches. The word 
rendered *' Cut me off" is anomalous, and is variously 
translated annihilate, extinguish, or as above. The wrath 
which was a fiery flame in ver. 1 6 is an overwhelming 
flood in ver. 17. The complaint of ver. 8 recurs in 
ver. 1 8, in still more tragic form. All human sympathy 
and help are far away, and the psalmist's only familiar 
friend is — darkness. There is an infinitude of despair 
in that sad irony. But there is a gleam of hope, though 
faint and far, like faint daylight seen from the inner- 
most recesses of a dark tunnel, in his recognition that 
his dismal solitude is the work of God's hand ; for, if 
God has made a heart or a life empty of human love, 
it is that He may Himself fill it with His own sweet 
and all-compensating presence. 


1 The loving-kindnesses of Jehovah will I sing for ever, 

To generation after generation will I make known Thy Faithful 
ness with my mouth. 

2 For I said, For ever shall Loving-kindness be built up, 

The heavens — in them wilt Thou establish Thy Faithfulness, 

3 I have made a covenant with My chosen one, 
I have sworn to David My servant; 

4 For ever will I establish thy seed. 

And build up thy throne to generation after generation. Selah. 

5 And the heavens shall make known Thy wonders, Jehovah, 
Thy Faithfulness also in the congregation of Thy holy ones. 

6 For who in the skies can be set beside Jehovah, 

[Or] likened to Jehovah, amongst the sons of the mighty ones ? 

7 A God very terrible in the council of the holy ones, 
And dread above all round about Him. 

8 Jehovah, God of Hosts, who like Thee is mighty, Jah ? 
And Thy Faithfulness [is] round Thee. 

9 Thou, Thou rulest the insolence of the sea, 

When its waves lift themselves on high. Thou, Thou stillest them 

10 Thou, Thou hast crushed Rahab as one that is slain. 

By the arm of Thy strength Thou hast scattered Thine enemies. 

1 1 Thine are the heavens, Thine also the earth, 

The world and its fulness, Thou, Thou hast founded them. 

12 North and south, Thou, Thou hast created them, 
Tabor and Hermon shout for joy at Thy Name. 

13 Thine is an arm with might, 

Strong is Thy hand, high is Thy right hand, 



14 Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of Thy throne, 
Loving-kindness and Troth go to meet Thy face. 

15 Blessed the people who know the festal shout I 
Jehovah, in the light of Thy face they walk. 

16 In Thy Name do they exult all the day, 
And in Thy righteousness are they exalted. 

1 7 For the glory of their strength art Thou, 
And in Thy favour shall our horn be exalted. 

18 For to Jehovah [belongs] our shield. 
And to the Holy One of Israel our king. 

19 Then Thou didst speak in vision to Thy favoured one and didst say, 
I have laid help upon a hero, 

I have exalted one chosen from the people, 

20 I have found David My servant. 
With My holy oil have I anointed him. 

21 With whom My hand shall be continually, 
Mine arm shall also strengthen him, 

22 No enemy shall steal upon him, 

And no son of wickedness shall afflict him. 

23 And I shatter his adversaries before him, 
And them that hate him will I smite, 

24 And My Faithfulness and My Loving-kindness [shall be] with him, 
And in My name shall his horn be exalted. 

25 And I will set his hand on the sea, 
And his right hand on the rivers. 

26 He, he shall call upon Me, My Father art Thou, 
My God and the rock of my salvation. 

27 Also I, I will give him [to be My] first-born, 
Higher than the kings of the earth. 

28 For ever will I keep for him My Loving-kindness, 
And My covenant shall be inviolable towards him. 

29 And I will make his seed [to last] for ever, 
And his throne as the days of heaven. 

30 If his sons forsake My law. 
And walk not in My judgments, 

31 If they profane My statutes. 
And keep not My commandments, 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 489 

32 Then will I visit their transgression with a rod, 
And their iniquity with stripes. 

33 But My Loving-kindness will I not break off from him. 
And I will not be false to My Faithfulness. 

34 I will not profane My covenant, 

And that which has gone forth from My lips will I not change. 

35 Once have I sworn by My holiness. 
Verily I will not be false to David. 

36 His seed shall be for ever. 

And his throne as the sun before me, 

37 As the moon shall he be established for ever, 
And the witness in the sky is true. Selah. 

38 But Thou, Thou hast cast off and rejected. 
Thou hast been wroth with Thine anointed, 

39 Thou hast abhorred the covenant of Thy servant, 
Thou hast profaned his crown to the ground. 

40 Thou hast broken down all his fences, 
Thou hast made his strongholds a ruin. 

41 All that pass on the way spoil him, 

He is become a reproach to his neighbours. 

42 Thou hast exalted the hand of his adversaries, 
Thou hast made all his enemies rejoice. 

43 Also Thou turnest the edge of his sword. 
And hast not made him to stand in the battle^ 

44 Thou hast made an end of his lustre. 
And cast his throne to the ground, 

45 Thou hast shortened the days of his youth, 
Thou hast wrapped shame upon him. Selah. 

46 How long, Jehovah, wilt Thou hide Thyself for ever? 
[How long] shall Thy wrath burn like fire ? 

47 Remember how short a time I [have to live], 

For what vanity hast Thou created all the sons of men 1 

48 Who is the man who shall live and not see death, 
[Who] shall deliver his soul from the hand of Sheol ? 

49 Where are Thy former loving-kindnesses, Jehovah, 
Which Thou swarest to David in Thy faithfulness? 

50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants. 
How I bear in my bosom the shame of the peoples (?) 


51 Wherewith Thine enemies have reproached Thee, Jehovah, 

Wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of Thine anointed. 

52 Blessed be Jehovah for evermore. 
Amen and Amen. 

THE foundation of this psalm is the promise in 
2 Sam. vii. which guaranteed the perpetuity of 
the Davidic kingdom. Many of the characteristic 
phrases of the prophecy recur here — e.g.^ the promises 
that the children of wickedness shall not afflict, and 
that the transgressions of David's descendants should 
be followed by chastisement only, not by rejection. 
The contents of Nathan's oracle are first given in brief 
in vv. 3, 4 — "like a text," as Hupfeld says — and again 
in detail and with poetic embellishments in vv. 19-37. 
But these glorious promises are set in sharpest con- 
trast with a doleful present, which seems to contradict 
them. They not only embitter it, but they bewilder 
faith, and the psalmist's lament is made almost a re- 
proach of God, whose faithfulness seems imperilled 
by the disasters which had fallen on the monarchy and 
on Israel. The complaint and petitions of the latter 
part are the true burden of the psalm, to which the 
celebration of Divine attributes in vv. 1-18, and the 
expansion of the fundamental promise in vv. 19-37, 
are meant to lead up. The attributes specified are 
those of Faithfulness (vv. i, 2, 5, 8, 14) and of 
Power, which render the fulfilment of God's promises 
certain. By such contemplations the psalmist would 
fortify himself against the whispers of doubt, which 
were beginning to make themselves heard in his mind, 
and would find in the character of God both assurance 
that His promise shall not fail, and a powerful plea 
for his prayer that it may not fail. 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 49* 

The whole tone of the psalm suggests that it was 
written when the kingdom was toppling to ruin, or 
perhaps even after its fall. DeHtzsch improbably 
supposes that the young king, whom loss and 
shame make an old man (ver. 45), is Rehoboam, 
and that the disasters which gave occasion to the 
psalm were those inflicted by the Egyptian king 
Shishak. Others see in that youthful prince Jehoiachin, 
who reigned for three months, and was then deposed 
by Nebuchadnezzar, and whom Jeremiah has be- 
wailed (xxii. 24-29). But all such conjectures are 

The structure of the psalm can scarcely be called 
strophical. There are three well-marked turns in the 
flow of thought, — first, the hymn to the Divine attri- 
butes (vv. 1-18) ; second, the expansion of the promise, 
which is the basis of the monarchy (vv. 19-37) 'y ^^^t 
finally, the lament and prayer, in view of present 
afflictions, that God would be true to His attributes 
and promises (vv. 38-51). For the most part the 
verses are grouped in pairs, which are occasionally 
lengthened into triplets. 

The psalmist begins with announcing the theme of 
his song — the Loving-kindness and Faithfulness of God. 
Surrounded by disasters, which seem in violent contra- 
diction to God's promise to David, he falls back on 
thoughts of the Mercy which gave it and the Faith- 
fulness which will surely accomplish it. The resolve 
to celebrate these in such circumstances argues a faith 
victorious over doubts, and putting forth energetic 
efforts to maintain itself This bird can sing in mid- 
winter. True, the song has other notes than joyous 
ones, but they, too, extol God's Loving-kindness and 
Faithfulness, even while they seem to question them. 


Self-command, which insists on a man's averting his 
thoughts from a gloomy outward present to gaze on 
God's loving purpose and unalterable veracity, is no 
small part of practical religion. The psalmist will sing^ 
because he said that these two attributes were ever 
in operation, and lasting as the heavens. "Loving- 
kindness shall be built up for ever," its various 
manifestations being conceived as each being a stone 
in the stately building which is in continual course 
of progress through all ages, and can never be com- 
pleted, since fresh stones will continually be laid, as 
long as God lives and pours forth His blessings. Much 
less can it ever fall into ruin, as impatient sense would 
persuade the psalmist that it is doing in his day. The 
parallel declaration as to God's Faithfulness takes the 
heavens as the type of duration and immobility, and 
conceives that attribute to be eternal and fixed, as 
they are. These convictions could not burn in the 
psalmist's heart without forcing him to speak. Lover, 
poet, and devout man, in their several ways, feel the 
same necessity of utterance. Not every Christian can 
"sing," but all can and should speak. They will, if 
their faith is strong. 

The Divine promise, on which the Davidic throne 
rests, is summed up in the abruptly introduced pair 
of verses (3, 4). That promise is the second theme 
of the psalm ; and just as, in some great musical com- 
position, the overture sounds for the first time phrases 
which are to be recurrent and elaborated in the sequel, 
so, in the four first verses of the psalm, its ruling 
thoughts are briefly put. Vv. I, 2, stand first, but 
are second in time to vv. 3, 4. God's oracle pre- 
ceded the singer's praise. The language of these two 
verses echoes the original passage in 2 Sam. vii., as in 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 493 

'* David My servant^ establishy for every buildy^ the last 
three of which expressions were used in ver. 2, with 
a view to their recurrence in ver. 4. The music keeps 
before the mind the perpetual duration of David's 

In vv. 6-18 the psalmist sets forth the Power and 
Faithfulness of God, which insure the fulfilment of His 
promises. He is the incomparably great and terrible 
God, who subdues the mightiest forces of nature and 
tames the proudest nations (vv. 9, 10), who is Maker and 
Lord of the world (vv. 11, 12), who rules with power, 
but also with righteousness, faithfulness, and grace 
(vv. 13, 14), and who, therefore, makes His people 
blessed and safe (vv. 15-18). Since God is such a 
God, His promise cannot remain unfulfilled. Power 
and willingness to execute it to the last tittle are 
witnessed by heaven and earth, by history and ex- 
perience. Dark as the present may be, it would, 
therefore, be folly to doubt for a moment. 

The psalmist begins his contemplations of the glory 
of the Divine nature with figuring the very heavens as 
vocal with His praise. Not only the object but the 
givers of that praise are noteworthy. The heavens 
are personified, as in Psalm xix. ; and from their silent 
depths comes music. There is One higher, mightier, 
older, more unperturbed, pure, and enduring than 
they, whom they extol by their lustre which they 
owe to Him. They praise God's ** wonder " (which 
here means, not so much His marvellous acts, as the 
wonder fulness of His Being, His incomparable great- 
ness and power), and His Faithfulness, the two 
guarantees of the fulfilment of His promises. Nor are 
the visible heavens His only praisers. The holy ones, 
sons of the mighty — i.e.^ the angels — bow before Him 


who is high above their hoHness and might, and own 
Him for God alone. 

With ver. 9 the hymn descends to earth, and 
magnifies God's Power and Faithfulness as manifested 
there. The sea is, as always, the emblem of rebellious 
tumult. Its insolence is calmed by Him. And the 
proudest of the nations, such as Rahab (" Pride," 
a current name for Egypt), had cause to own His 
power, when He brought the waves of the sea over 
her hosts, thus in one act exemplifying His sovereign 
sway over both nature and nations. He is Maker, and 
therefore Lord, of heaven and earth. In all quarters 
of the world His creative hand is manifest, and His 
praise sounds. Tabor and Hermon may stand, as the 
parallelism requires, for west and east, though some 
suppose that they are simply named as conspicuous 
summits. They " shout for joy at Thy Name," an ex- 
pression like that used in ver. 16, in reference to Israel. 
The poet thinks of the softly swelling Tabor with its 
verdure, and of the lofty Hermon with its snows, as 
sharing in that gladness, and praising Him to whom 
they owe their beauty and majesty. Creation vibrates 
with the same emotions which thrill the poet. The 
sum of all the preceding is gathered up in ver. 13, 
which magnifies the might of God's arm. 

But more blessed still for the psalmist, in the midst 
of national gloom, is the other thought of the moral 
character of God's rule. His throne is broad-based 
upon the sure foundation of righteousness and justice. 
The pair of attributes always closely connected — 
namely, Loving-kindness and Troth or Faithfulness — 
are here, as frequently, personified. They *' go to 
meet Thy face " — that is, in order to present themselves 
before Him. "The two genii of the history of redemp- 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 495 

tion (Psalm xliii. 3) stand before His countenance, like 
attendant maidens, waiting the slightest indication of 
His will " (Dehtzsch). 

Since God is such a God, His Israel is blessed, 
whatever its present plight. So the psalmist closes 
the first part of his song, with rapturous celebration 
of the favoured nation's prerogatives. " The festal 
shout " or " the trumpet-blast " is probably the music 
at the festivals (Numb, xxiii. 2 1 and xxxi. 6), and *' those 
who know " it means *^ those who are familiar with the 
worship of this great God." The elements of their 
blessedness are then unfolded. ^* They walk in the 
light of Thy face." Their outward life is passed in 
continual happy consciousness of the Divine presence, 
which becomes to them a source of gladness and 
guidance. ** In Thy Name do they exult all the 
day." God's self-manifestation, and the knowledge of 
Him which arises therefrom, become the occasion of 
a calm, perpetual joy, which is secure from change, 
because its roots go deeper than the region where 
change works. "In Thy righteousness shall they be 
exalted." Through God's strict adherence to His 
covenant, not by any power of their own, shall they 
be lifted above foes and fears. " The glory of their 
strength art Thou." In themselves they are weak, but 
Thou, not any arm of flesh, art their strength, and by 
possession of Thee they are not only clothed with 
might, but resplendent with beauty. Human power 
is often unlovely ; God-given strength is, like armour 
inlaid with gold, ornament as well as defence. ** In 
Thy favour our horn shall be exalted." The psalmist 
identifies himself at last with the people, whose blessed- 
ness he has so glowingly celebrated. He could keep 
up the appearance of distinction no longer. " They " 


gives place to *' we " unconsciously, as his heart swells 
with the joy which he paints. Depressed as he and 
his people are for the moment, he is sure that there 
is lifting up. The emblem of the lifted horn is common, 
as expressive of victory. The psalmist is confident 
of Israel's triumph, because he is certain that the 
nation, as represented by and, as it were, concentrated 
in its king, belongs to God, who will not lose what 
is His. The rendering of ver. 1 8 in the A.V. cannot 
be sustained. " Our shield " in the first clause is 
parallel with *' our king " in the second, and the 
meaning of both clauses is that the king of Israel is 
God's, and therefore secure. That ownership rests 
on the promise to David, and on it in turn is rested 
the psalmist's confidence that Israel and its king are 
possessed of a charmed life, and shall be exalted, how- 
ever now abject and despondent. 

The second part (vv. 19-37) draws out in detail, and 
at some points with heightened colouring, the funda- 
mental prophecy by Nathan. It falls into two parts, of 
which the former (vv. 19-27) refers more especially to 
the promises given to David, and the second (vv. 28-37) 
to those relating to his descendants. In ver. 19 
'' vision " is quoted from 2 Sam. vii. 17 ; " then " pomts 
back to the period of giving the promise ; " Thy 
favoured one " is possibly Nathan, but more probably 
David. The Masoretic reading, however, which is 
followed by many ancient versions, has the plural 
'' favoured ones," which Delitzsch takes to mean Samuel 
and Nathan. '' Help " means the help which, through 
the king, comes to his people, and especially, as appears 
from the use of the word ^' hero," aid in battle. But 
since the selection of David for the throne is the subject 
in hand, the emendation which reads for " help " crown 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 497 

recommends itself as probable. David's prowess, his 
humble origin, and his devotion to God*s service are 
brought into view in vv. 19, 20, as explaining and 
magnifying the Divine choice. His dignity is all from 
God. Consequently, as the next pair of verses goes 
on to say, God's protecting hand will ever be with 
him, since He cannot set a man in any position and 
fail to supply the gifts needed for it. Whom He 
chooses He will protect. Sheltered behind that strong 
hand, the king will be safe from all assaults. The 
word rendered " steal upon " in ver. 22 is doubtful, 
and by some is taken to mean to exacts as a creditor 
does, but that gives a flat and incongruous turn to 
the promise. For ver. 22 b compare 2 Sam. vii. 10. 
Victory over all enemies is next promised in vv. 23-25, 
and is traced to the perpetual presence with the king 
of God's Faithfulness and Loving-kindness, the two 
attributes of which so much has been sung in the 
former part. The manifestation of God's character (t.e.^ 
His Name) will secure the exaltation of David's horn — 
t.e.f the victorious exercise of his God-given strength. 
Therefore a wide extension of his kingdom is promised 
in ver. 25, from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates 
and its canals, on which God will lay the king's hand 
— i.e.y will put them in his possession. 

The next pair of verses (26, 27) deals with the 
inward side of the relations of God and the king. On 
David's part there will be child-like love, with all the 
lowliness of trust and obedience which lies in the 
recognition of God's fatherhood, and on God's part 
there will be the acknowledgment of the relation, and 
the adoption of the king as His " first-born," and there- 
fore, in a special sense, beloved and exalted. Israel is 
called by the same name in other places, in reference 

VOL. II. 32 


to its special prerogative amongst the nations. The 
national dignity is concentrated in the king, who stands 
to other monarchs as Israel to other nations, and is to 
them /'.Most High," the august Divine title, which here 
may possibly mean that David is to the rulers of the 
earth an image of God. The reciprocal relation of Father 
and Son is not here conceived in its full inwardness 
and depth as Christianity knows it, for it has reference 
to office rather than to the person sustaining the office, 
but it is approximating thereto. There is an echo of 
the fundamental passage in ver. 26. (Compare 2 Sam. 
vii. 14.) 

From ver. 28 onwards the psalmist turns to expand 
the promises to David's line. His words are mainly a 
poetical paraphrase of 2 Sam. vii. 14. Transgression 
shall indeed be visited with chastisement, which the 
fatherly relation requires, as the original passage indi- 
cates by the juxtaposition of the promise " I will be 
his Father," and the declaration " I will chasten him." 
But it will be chastisement only, and not rejection. 
The unchangeableness of God's loving purpose is very 
strongly and beautifully put in ver. 33, in which the 
twin attributes of Loving-kindness and Faithfulness are 
again blended as the ground of sinful men's hope. The 
word rendered above ^^ break off" occasions a difficulty, 
both in regard to its form and its appropriateness in 
this connection. The clause is a quotation from 2 Sam. 
vii. 15, and the emendation which substitutes for break 
off the more natural word used there — namely, with- 
draw — is to be preferred. In ver. 33 ^ the paradoxical 
expression oi being false to My faithfulness suggests the 
contradiction inherent in the very thought that He can 
break His plighted word. The same idea is again put 
in striking form in ver. 34 : ''I will not profane My 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 499 

covenant," even though degenerate sons of David 
" profane " God's statute. His word, once spoken, is 
inviolable. He is bound by His oath. He has given 
His holiness as the pledge of His word, and, till that 
holiness wanes, those utterances which He has sealed 
with it cannot be recalled. The certainty that sin 
does not alter God's promise is not traced here to 
His placableness, but to His immutable nature, and to 
the obligations under which He is laid by His own 
word and acts. That unchangeableness is a rock- 
foundation, on which sinful men may build their certi- 
tude. It is much to know that they cannot sin away 
God's mercy nor exhaust His gentle long-suffering. It 
is even more to know that His holiness guarantees that 
they cannot sin away His promises, nor by any breach 
of His commandments provoke Him to break His 

The allusions to the ancient promise are completed 
in vv. 36, 37, with the thought of the perpetual continu- 
ance of the Davidic line and kingdom, expressed by the 
familiar comparison of its duration to that of the sun 
and moon. Ver. 37 ^ is best understood as above. 
Some take the faithful witness to be the moon ; others 
the rainbow, and render, as in the A.V. and R.V., *' and 
as the faithful witness." But the designation of the 
moon as a witness is unexampled and almost unintel- 
ligible. It is better to take the clause as independent, 
and to suppose that Jehovah is His own witness, and 
that the psalmist here speaks in his own person, the 
quotation of the promises being ended. Cheyne encloses 
the clause in a parenthesis and compares Rev. iii. 14. 

The third part begins with ver. 38, and consists of 
two portions, in the first of which the psalmist com- 
plains with extraordinary boldness of remonstrance, 


and describes the contrast between these lofty promises 
and the sad reality (vv. 38-45), and, in the second, 
prays for the removal of the contradiction of God's 
promise by Israel's affliction, and bases this petition 
on the double ground of the shortness of life, and the 
dishonour done to His own Name thereby. 

The expostulation very nearly crosses the boundary 
of reverent remonstrance, when it charges God with 
having Himself *' abhorred" or, according to another 
rendering, ** made void " His covenant, and cast the 
king's crown to the ground. The devastation of the 
kingdom is described, in vv. 40, 41, in language borrowed 
from Psalm Ixxx. 12. The pronouns grammatically 
refer to the king, but the ideas of the land and the 
monarch are blended. The next pair of verses (42, 43) 
ventures still further in remonstrance, by charging God 
with taking the side of Israel's enemies and actively 
intervening to procure its defeat. The last verse-pair 
of this part (44, 45) speaks more exclusively of the 
king, or perhaps of the monarchy. The language, 
especially in ver. 45 a, seems most naturally under-' 
stood of an individual. Delitzsch takes such to be its 
application, and supposes it to describe the king as 
having been prematurely aged by calamity ; while Hup- 
feld, with Hengstenberg and others, prefer to regard 
the expression as lamenting that the early days of the 
monarchy's vigour had so soon been succeeded by 
decrepitude like that of age. That family, which had 
been promised perpetual duration and dominion, has 
lost its lustre, and is like a dying lamp. That throne 
has fallen to the ground, which God had promised 
should stand for ever. Senile weakness has stricken 
the monarchy, and disaster, which makes it an object 
of contempt, wraps it like a garment, instead of the 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 501 

royal robe. A long, sad wail of the music fixes the 
picture on the mind of the hearer. 

Then follows prayer, which shows how consistent with 
true reverence and humble dependence is the outspoken 
vigour of the preceding remonstrance. The boldest 
thoughts about the apparent contradiction of God's words 
and deeds are not too bold, if spoken straight to Him, 
and not muttered against Him, and if they lead the 
speaker to prayer for the removal of the anomaly. In 
ver. 46 there is a quotation from Psalm Ixxix. 5. The 
question " How long " is the more imploring because life 
is so short. There is but a little while during which it 
is possible for God to manifest Himself as full of Loving- 
kindness and Faithfulness. The psalmist lets his feel- 
ings of longing to see for himself the manifestation 
of these attributes peep forth for a moment, in that 
pathetic sudden emergence of " I " instead of '* we " or 
" men," in ver. 47 a. His language is somewhat obscure, 
but the sense is clear. Literally, the words read 
"Remember — I, what a transitoriness." The meaning 
is plain enough, when it is observed that, as Perowne 
rightly says, ** I " is placed first for the sake of emphasis. 
It is a tender thought that God may be moved to show 
forth His Loving-kindness by remembrance of the brief 
period within which a man's opportunity of beholding it 
is restricted, and by the consideration that so soon he 
will have to look on a grimmer sight, and " see death." 
The music again comes in with a melancholy cadence, 
emphasising the sadness which enwraps man's short 
life, if no gleams of God's loving-kindness fall on its 
fleeting days. 

The last three verses (w. 49-51) urge yet another 
plea — that of the dishonour accruing to God from the 
continuance of Israel's disasters. A second " Remember " 


presents that plea, which is preceded by the wistful 
question '* Where are Thy former loving-kindnesses ? " 
The psalmist looks back on the glories of early days, 
and the retrospect is bitter and bewildering. That 
these were sworn to David in God's faithfulness 
staggers him, but he makes the fact a plea with God. 
Then in vv. 50, 51, he urges the insults and reproaches 
which enemies hurled against him and against " Thy 
servants," and therefore against God. 

Ver. 506 is obscure. To "bear in the bosom" 
usually implies tender care, but here can only mean 
sympathetic participation. The psalmist again lets his 
own personality appear for a moment, v/hile he identifies 
himself as a member of the nation with " Thy servants " 
and "Thine anointed." The last words of the clause 
are so obscure that there must apparently have been 
textual corruption. If the existing text is retained, the 
object of the verb / bear must be supplied from a^ and 
this clause will run, " I bear in my bosom the reproach 
of all the many peoples." But the collocation of all 
and many is harsh, and the position of many is 
anomalous. An ingenious conjecture, adopted by 
Cheyne from Bottcher and Bickell, and accepted by 
Baethgen, reads for " all, many peoples," the shame of 
the peoples^ which gives a good meaning, and may be 
received as at all events probable, and expressing the 
intent of the psalmist. Insolent conquerors and their 
armies triumph over the fallen Israel, and " reproach 
the footsteps " of the dethroned king or royal line — t.e.^ 
they pursue him with their taunts, wherever he goes. 
These reproaches cut deep into the singer's heart ; 
but they glance off from the earthly objects and strike 
the majesty of Heaven. God's people cannot be 
flouted without His honour being touched. Therefore 

Ixxxix.] THE PSALMS 503 

the prayer goes up, that the Lord would remember 
these jeers which mocked Him as well as His afflicted 
people, and would arise to action on behalf of His 
own Name. His Loving-kindness and Faithfulness, 
which the psalmist has magnified, and on which he 
rests his hopes, are darkened in the eyes of men and 
even of His own nation by the calamities, which give 
point to the rude gibes of the enemy. Therefore the 
closing petitions beseech God to think on these re- 
proaches, and to bring into act once more His Loving- 
kindness, and to vindicate His Faithfulness, which He 
had sealed to David by His oath. 

Ver. 52 is no part of the original psalm, but is the 
closing doxology of Book IIL 





w^y^. m^ - 



Hpt vout 






DEMCO 38-29